Wednesday, May 16, 2012
School lunchtime countywide will be a healthier affair next year thanks to the efforts of Signal Mountain High School senior Lauren Clapham. A vegetarian for three years, she said she was concerned by the lack of salad options available at her school.
“A lot of people don’t like the quality and taste of the food,” said Clapham.
She set out to see how much trouble it would be to get a salad bar put in the SMHS cafeteria, as the only salads available at the time were prepackaged iceberg lettuce with tomatoes.
“I started thinking about all the other middle and high schools that don’t have salad bars,” said Clapham.
Alison Hoffman, manager of the Signal Mountain Farmers Market whom Clapham had for biology and ecology at SMHS, served as her mentor for the project.
“I enjoyed her classes, and being a vegetarian, we kind of bonded on that level,” said Clapham. “She was a big help with contacts.”
She started working with Kristen Eppig, supervisor of nutritional services for Hamilton County Schools. Due to the Hunger Free Healthy Kids Act, Eppig said they were already planning to overhaul the current school nutrition system in July, but were not planning to add salad bars until they were approached by Clapham.
“They didn’t know the students wanted them,” said Clapham.
Eppig said Hamilton County Schools will receive a $27,500 federal grant as part of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move Salad Bars 2 Schools” program, which will provide funds for the county’s 11 high and middle/high schools.
To see what students wanted on the salad bar, Clapham did a schoolwide survey, which about half of the SMMHS student population completed.
“Some actually wrote on there other things they would like,” she said. “A lot of kids who went to Nolan [Elementary on Signal Mountain] were used to having a salad bar.”
Clapham said the most popular choices were pasta salad, fruit, onions, broccoli and mushrooms.
A salad bar meal must include three of the five food groups, which include meats, vegetables, fruits, grains and milk. Each of the following items are included: two cups of lettuce (considered one vegetable), one cup of meat (a half serving of meat), one cup of cheese (a half serving of meat alternative), four scoops of vegetables (one vegetable serving), two packs of crackers (one grain serving), croutons or chow mein noodles (one grain serving), two fruits and a milk.
If students do not want meat, they are allowed to substitute two cheeses instead, she said.
Clapham said she is a little disappointed she won’t get to try the salad bar she worked to get for the school, which she had at one point been told would arrive after spring break.
“I’m just glad I could make a difference somewhere,” she said.