Are salad bars the best option for schools?

Students at Fairmount Elementary School wait in line to get fresh vegetables from a salad bar in the cafeteria on November 12, 2010 in San Francisco, California.

TEXT OF STORY

JEREMY HOBSON: Here in the U.S. today First Lady Michelle Obama will announce a program to put 5,000 salad bars in schools around the country. It's part of her campaign against childhood obesity, as Marketplace's Eve Troeh reports.


EVE TROEH: Remember when Cookie Monster tried to get kids to eat better?

COOKIE MONSTER: Me eat bowl of fruit!

Well, Rodney Taylor says you don't need Cookie Monster. You need a salad bar. Taylor is with Riverside School District in California. He put salad bars in 29 elementary schools at $10,000 a pop.

RODNEY TAYLOR: We were feeding 47 percent of the children. Today we feed 70 percent.

He says when more students eat lunch at school less food is wasted. And that makes up for the cost which includes staff to keep the salad bar clean and make sure students take something from all the food groups.

TAYLOR: Sweetie you need to add some vegetables, sweetie you need to add some more color.

But salad bars may not be the best way to fight childhood obesity, says John Cawley. He studies the problem at Cornell University.

JOHN CAWLEY: The thing I worry about is whether resources are being spent in a way that does the most good for the most children.

He'd rather see money go to medically proven obesity programs at schools.

In Los Angeles, I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

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