Starting a Wellness
Getting a Salad Bar
for Your School
Changing Breakfast Options
Changing A La Carte Options
Wellness Committees are generally formed via the PTA. In order to
form a committee, ideally you need to find a leader and a couple of
interested parents. RFKM can send you a list of parents from your
school to help recruit committee members. Once you have this, you
can approach your PTA about starting a committee. They will
typically vote on starting the committee at a meeting. If you would
like RFKM to come present at a PTA meeting prior to making this
request, you can request that by emailing us at
If your committee is approved, you will need to complete a work plan
for the PTA. This will contain the name of the committee, the chair
and member names, goals, potential activities for the year, supplies
needed, and any budget request. It will then be up to you to convene
your committee, refine your goals, and get to work.
Here are some examples of activities of other wellness committees
started by RFKM members:
• At Bradley Hills ES and Takoma Park ES, the wellness committees
created a school food survey, reviewed it with the principal, then
surveyed parents via the school listserv.
• At Bradley Hills ES, after getting the results of the survey,
wellness committee leaders arranged a meeting with the Division of
Food and Nutrition Services (DFNS) and the principal to go over the
results and asked for removal of a la carte items that 50% or more
of parents did not want served and also asked for a salad bar. As a
result of this meeting, DFNS installed a salad bar (directly into
the existing serving line but only opened originally to 4th and 5th
graders) and limited a la carte choices to the items selected
identified as acceptable to the majority of parents.
• Rock Creek Forest ES’s Wellness Committee advocated for a water
bottle filling station in their new school (which was being rebuilt)
and got MCPS to agree to install one in the cafeteria.
According to MCPS’ Division of Food and Nutrition Services, there is
salad bar equipment available at the central facility in MCPS. All
it takes to get one installed at any given school is a request by
the principal. Many principals are hesitant to make this request due
to concerns that it will create chaos and longer lines in the
cafeteria or will require additional staff.
One of the best ways to advocate for a salad bar is to first educate
parents on salad bars. You are free to personalize and use
this article on salad bars as a submission to your PTA
newsletter. Subsequently, you can run a school food survey to
determine parent support for the salad bar. RFKM has sample surveys
and a subscription to SurveyMonkey that you can access for this
purpose. We also have a version in Spanish. Once majority support
for a salad bar is established through the survey, you can request a
meeting with your principal to ask for installation of a salad bar.
The principal will then need to request it from the Division of Food
and Nutrition Services.
We encourage you to look at the materials below and work closely
with the Division of Food and Nutrition Services to make sure that
the salad bar is properly implemented and marketed. A poorly
stocked, publicized and marketed salad bar will likely be used by
few children and may be removed or only stocked very few days of the
In middle and high schools in MCPS, salads from bars are typically
sold by the ounce and are not included in the set price or Free and
Reduced Price Meal. In elementary schools, they are either sold as
part of the meal, or as a separate a la carte item by weight.
Farmer's Market Salad Bar Program Guide - created by the
Riverside United School District Nutrition Services Department and
the Center for Food and Justice at Occidental College
Salad Bars - Implementation guide from The Lunch Box
Let's Move: Salad Bars to Schools - Equipment Grants
At 77 of the schools in MCPS, breakfast is served not only in the
cafeteria but also in the classroom. This has created concern among
parents whose children are not only eating two breakfasts, but a
second breakfast of foods they would not serve regularly at home,
like cinnamon rolls, pancakes or french toast with chocolate milk
and a side of juice, that they cannot opt their child out of.
Parents at various schools have organized themselves to request
whole fruit for breakfast, or the removal of undesirable breakfast
items, like cinnamon rolls (so far, requests for removal of
chocolate milk have not been granted). Again, the best way to
initiate this process is through the formation of a wellness
committee and school food surveys. However, if you would like to
shortcut the process, if you have a group of parents who are
concerned, they can contact the principal who can arrange a meeting
between parents and the Division of Food and Nutrition Services.
However, when you go this route, you will likely only get the
changes that the majority of the parents who show up for the meeting
want. If you want a more democratic evaluation of what the majority
of parents agree on, conducting a school food survey will lead to
more accurate and representative results. RFKM has templates and a
SurveyMonkey account that you can access to conduct a survey.
Here are some examples of what our members at two schools have done
to improve breakfast in the classroom options:
• After discovering that whole fruit was listed on the menu, but
juice was always served instead, parents at Rolling Terrace ES
advocated for fresh fruit to be served at breakfast. After meetings
with the Division of Food and Nutrition Services, they got their
request. While it is too costly for MCPS to serve 2 servings of
fruit at breakfast, they are now serving one plus juice.
• After advocacy by a group of parents at Forest Knolls ES, which
led to a meeting between parents and the Division of Food and
Nutrition Services, MCPS removed Craisins and cinnamon rolls from
breakfast in the classroom there.
One of the most common complaints of parents in MCPS is the sale of
a la carte items such as chips, cookies, ice cream and gummies, even
at the elementary school level, that are not listed on the menus.
These items can be purchased by students using their pin numbers
without parent knowledge or permission. While parents do have the
right to restrict their child’s account to meals only, few know
about the sale of a la carte foods or take advantage of their
ability to limit their children’s access to them.
The best way to improve the situation on a school by school basis is
to work to limit a la carte options to healthier items. Again, the
best way to initiate this process is through the formation of a
wellness committee and the conducting of a school food survey. In
our experience, school food surveys typically show that the majority
of parents agree on the removal of the worst of the a la carte
options. Subsequently, a meeting between the wellness committee
leadership, the Division of Food and Nutrition Services and the
school principal usually results in an improved a la carte menu, as
principals have the right to remove or change a la carte options.
However, if you would like to shortcut the process, if you have a
group of parents who are concerned, they can contact the principal
who can arrange a meeting between parents and the Division of Food
and Nutrition Services to request changes. However, when you go this
route, you will likely only get the changes that the majority of the
parents who show up for the meeting want. If you want a more
democratic evaluation of what the majority of parents agree on,
conducting a school food survey will lead to more accurate and
representative results. RFKM has templates and a SurveyMonkey
account that you can access to conduct one.
"I teach high school and the
students are begging for healthier choices--especially the kids who
receive free and reduced meals. Their options are limited."
- An MCPS teacher
"Please no more chicken nuggets, pizza, fries, and other junk
foods. Positive peer pressure can help some kids open up to new,
healthier foods. School is a good opportunity for that."
- An RFKM supporter
"We would love our daughter to be able to eat the food in the
cafeteria, but it just isn't healthy. We limit her to once a
week. We should also do away with veding machines in the
schools. Or have vending machines that sell things like fruit."
- an MCPS parent
"As a teacher in MoCo public schools I see the negative effect
so called food has on students daily. many of these students
count on these meals as their only food for the day, and sugar
and chemicals aren't fitting for creating a positive learning
- an MCPS teacher