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Students give school salad bar an A+

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Beginning Sept. 7, all three Liberty school cafeterias will include a free salad bar

It’s high noon for Liberty High School students, and it’s time for some tough choices.

Pizza or salad bar?

It’s a no brainer for tenth-grader Jeremy Lieberman, who piled lettuce, carrots and cucumbers onto a plate, topping them with a drizzle of ranch and sprinkle of cheese.

"I love the salad bar; it's a good change,” he said on Tuesday, June 7 as he joined a long line of students and teachers turning a cold shoulder to the pizza and fries. “I love the new variety of healthy foods.”

That’s good news for Liberty Central School District officials, that beginning next year, all students will be able to eat fresh vegetables and fruit from a salad bar courtesy of a grant from Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, the Whole Kids Foundation and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

The high school salad bar opened on Monday, June 6. The elementary and middle school salad bars are expected to open in the fall.

"It's really awesome," said ninth-grader Maria Racon, whose plate was covered with carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes following a trip to the produce bar. "They have good fruits, vegetables and cheese."

Stocked with fresh, seasonal produce, from carrots and cucumbers to broccoli and black-eyed peas, the bar is giving Liberty students healthier lunchtime options.

"There's more variety of vegetables than we had before in the cafeteria,” said ninth-grader Mike Cohen, who was munching on chicken salad and slices of cucumbers and carrots from the bar. “What we had before wasn’t healthy or filling enough, which is something student-athletes look for.” (Mike is a member of the Liberty soccer, indoor track and baseball teams.)

, meal charges for all students are free. Students do not have to pay to enjoy the a salad bar if selected as his or her main entree. Students can continue to purchase extra food items, such as a double meal or an extra snack or drink, for a fee.

“As a person with a food allergy, I was excited to see the salad bar introduced because it gives me the chance to get lunch for free at the school,” eleventh-grade student Samantha Burger said.

In planning for and implementing the produce bar, Food Service Director Dara Smith said that she and her staff had to work through many dietary concerns and logistics, such as the flow of traffic through the cafeteria before opening the high school’s salad bar.

“We’re using the high school salad bar as a pilot,” she said. “While we’d like to open the elementary and middle school salad bars before the end of the 2015-16 school year, we have to make sure all cafeteria staff are properly trained.”

Beginning Sept. 7, 2016, a salad bar in each school will be open daily.

"[The salad bars] could be the connection between healthy kids and academic improvement," Liberty Middle/High School Principal Jack Strassman said. "Healthy kids learn better and perform better in school."

The district also hopes to offer local produce through a farm to school outreach program that is being developed by .

For more information about the salad bar, please contact Dara Smith at (845) 292-5400 ext. 2040.

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