Location of School Lunch Salad Bars and Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Middle Schools: A Cross-Sectional Plate Waste Study

Published:November 26, 2015DOI:



      The school lunch environment is a prime target for increasing a child’s consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables (F/V). Salad bars are heavily encouraged in schools; however, more research is needed to examine the contexts in which salad bars promote consumption of F/V among students.


      To compare the amount of fresh F/V self-served, consumed, and wasted by students during lunch at schools with differing salad bar placement: inside or outside of the serving line.


      Cross-sectional plate waste study in which salad bar placement differed between schools.


      A random sample of middle school students (N=533) from six schools (three schools per district).

      Main outcome measures

      Amount of fresh F/V taken, consumed, and wasted.

      Statistical analyses

      Negative binomial multivariable regression examined placement of salad bars, adjusting for sex, grade, race/ethnicity, free/reduced status, day of the week, and nesting of students within schools.


      Almost all students (98.6%) in the schools with salad bars inside serving lines self-served F/V compared with only 22.6% of students in the schools with salad bars outside lines (adjusted prevalence ratio=5.38; 95% CI 4.04 to 7.17). Similarly, students at schools with salad bars inside the line had greater prevalence of consuming any F/V compared with students in schools with salad bars outside the line (adjusted prevalence ratio=4.83; 95% CI 3.40 to 6.81). On average, students with the salad bar outside the line wasted less F/V compared with those with salad bars inside the line (30% vs 48%, respectively).


      Few students visited salad bars located outside the lunch line. Salad bars inside the lunch line resulted in significantly greater fresh F/V taken, consumed, and wasted. When possible, schools should try to include salad bars inside the line to increase students’ exposure to F/V.


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      M. A. Adams is an assistant professor of exercise and wellness, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Arizona State University, Phoenix.


      M. Bruening is an assistant professor of nutrition, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Arizona State University, Phoenix.


      P. Ohri-Vachaspati is an associate professor of nutrition, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Arizona State University, Phoenix.


      J. C. Hurley is a doctoral student, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Arizona State University, Phoenix.

      Linked Article

      • Location of School Lunch Salad Bars in Cafeterias: Design and Analysis Issues
        Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and DieteticsVol. 116Issue 7
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          Adams and colleagues1 described a novel study examining the placement of salad bars within six middle school cafeterias as it relates to students’ consumption of fruit and vegetables (F/V). The authors found that students selected and consumed more F/V when salad bars were offered as part of the lunch line as compared to when the salad bars were located outside of the line. While these findings are consistent with both theoretical and empirical evidence,2 we are concerned with several aspects of the study design and analysis of data.
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