Grade-schoolers enthusiastically belly up to the bar, salad bar that is

cclick@thestate.com May 2, 2012 

The pint-sized ambassadors of lettuce pronounced the new salad bar at Satchel Ford Elementary School “delicious” and “cool.”

At least one in this enthusiastic cafeteria crowd Tuesday even promised to “make people love salad, one noggin at a time.”

But, psst, it won’t be that easy, given that the previous salad offerings — pre-packaged, sour-smelling and with the occasional chunk of ice nestled alongside the greens — “used to be gross,” confided third-grader Ellie Hedgepath, 9. “It was just a sour taste,” said fifth-grader Ruth Emmon Tyson, 10, wrinkling her nose at the memory of the school’s former salad days.

But the new bar unveiled Tuesday — part of a childhood obesity awareness effort sponsored by HBO, Whole Kids Foundation and GLOBALTAP — ignited a wave of enthusiasm among students, who stocked plates not only with lettuce but kid-friendly orange slices, cherry tomatoes and other fixings.

“The only salad I’ve liked before was Caesar’s salad,” said fourth-grader Bernie McIlnay, 9, “but I like this salad.”

Satchel Ford Elementary is one of about 100 salad bars and waters taps being installed in school cafeterias nationwide to encourage healthier habits and combat childhood obesity. In South Carolina, nearly 32 percent of children are considered either obese or overweight, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, while national levels are 12 percent obese and 28 percent obese or overweight.

Tuesday’s salad bar program included an advanced screening at Satchel Ford of the new HBO documentary “The Weight of the Nation.” Columbia was one of 12 cities selected for the previews of the documentary, which will debut on HBO on May 14.

After a healthy lunch, each student headed back to class with new titanium water bottles from HBO. That’s to help end the nation’s fixation with plastic water bottles that are thrown away or recycled.

Now, said Ellie Hedgepath, “I want them to make the hot lunches yummier.”

Staff writer Joey Holleman contributed.

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