People passing by Patriot Elementary School's cafeteria Tuesday might have thought several horses were walking around inside, filling the space with a steady clip-clop sound.
Although the four-legged animals did not make a special appearance, some horse-like behavior was exhibited by 50 elementary school students who were munching on carrots of different varieties and colors: orange, white, yellow and purple.
"I liked the yellow carrot the most because it was softer to eat," said fifth grader Kailee Quashnick.
The carrot eaters were gathered for a Rosedale Union School District salad bar dedication sponsored by Bayer, which will be providing an additional four salad bars at American, Almondale, Rosedale North and Independence elementary schools. Two more salad bars will be provided to the district by Tour de Fresh, a cycling event that raises funds to benefit the national Salad Bars to Schools initiative.
The district piloted the salad bar at Patriot Elementary this school year. Students pick and choose between lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, meat and various dressings when making their salads. The program meets the United States Department of Agriculture's requirements for a nutritious meal just like the traditional hot lunch line, Superintendent John Mundiburu explained, and three times as many students selected the salad bar lunch program than bringing in a lunch from home.
"A lot of times at elementary schools, you're served a specific meal and that's what you get," he said. "It gives students more of an opportunity to select and feel like big grown ups when they get to pick out their meals."
Representatives from United Fresh Start Foundation, Bayer Crop Science and Grimmway Farms, the world's largest carrot grower, were also present to discuss healthy eating.
Zach Wortiska, seed operations manager with Grimmway Farms, said he enjoys speaking to children about how carrots go from farms to tables. He showed four bunches of multi-colored carrots and explained the growing process to students.
After the taste testing, students received a bag of carrots to take home and crafted salads to eat for lunch.
Quashnick, whose mother used to grow carrots, said she prefers the salad bar to foods she would eat from the hot lunch line — hamburgers, burritos and orange chicken.
Her peer, sixth grader Carter Beardsley, agrees.
"This is my first year at Patriot, and as soon as I came I saw the salad bar and it was exciting to have that healthier option," he said. "I eat it a lot here."
Salad bars are also available in the Bakersfield City, Kern High and Panama Buena Vista Union school districts.