September 17, 2019
They are living their “salad days,” so why shouldn’t they be enjoying fresh-grown greens (and reds and yellows) for lunch? With that in mind, the trending salad franchise, Sweetgreen, based in Culver City, California, has just committed $1 million to the nonprofit FoodCorps to transform school lunches.
Portland, Oregon-based FoodCorps launched in 2009 with a mission to connect kids with healthier ways of eating by teaching cooking, gardening, and tasting, since children love to eat things they have prepared themselves.
- Tasty challenge allows kids to regularly try fruits and vegetable prepared in different ways and vote for their favorites (trying raw versus roasted carrots, for instance).
- Flavor bar allows students to choose from a variety of sauces and spices in order to explore new flavors and ways of seasoning their food (from adobo to hot sauce, ketchup, or garlic granules).
- School Cafeteria 2.0 empowers kids to decide for themselves how their dining experience might be improved, and then use that consensus to make changes alongside school administrators. In some schools, the priority might be more natural light and plants, while in others, it could be more communal seating—rethinking how the food itself is arranged and served so kids actually have time to eat it.
Sweetgreen Co-founder and Chief Brand Officer Nathaniel Ru told Fast Company in an interview that one of the most appealing aspects of all these concepts is the “hands-on learning” opportunities for kids. In some ways, it represents what’s happening in his shops as regulars try or combine new things.
“[This] is really focused on seeking to understand students’ kind of choice and voice and things that really change behavior in terms of healthy eating in schools,” he says. (Plus, starting kids on salads early is a good step toward growing the pool of future Sweetgreen customers.)
After visiting schools and studying student behavior, FoodCorps began implementing these changes at five prototype schools last fall. With Sweetgreen’s backing, they’ll expand the effort to 15 cafeterias around the country during the 2019 school year, reaching an estimated 6,500 students in 10 states including Oregon, Arkansas, Michigan, New York, and Virginia. FoodCorps works with 350 schools in 18 states. The initial goal is to add this kind of programming to 50 schools and be helping 20,000 kids by the end of 2020.