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First lady Michelle Obama hopes to donate at least 6,000 salad bars in schools in the next three years under a new initiative, Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools, launched Nov. 22, that teams the federal government with the produce industry to improve nutrition in school-age children.

At Riverside Elementary School in Miami, the first lady spent nearly an hour talking with children at the first school to receive donated salad bar equipment under the new initiative.

"There are studies that show that kids who are eating their fruits and vegetables on a regular basis actually do better in school," she told the elementary school children.

“Because one of the things we know is that this kind of stuff is really expensive, and not every school has the money that it takes to bring the salad bar in, even if they want to make it happen. So that’s why this team of folks is so important, because they pulled together all these resources to make this happen,” she added.

The National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance, co-chaired by the Produce for Better Health Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, along with the Food, Family, Farming Foundation and the United Fresh Produce Association, have formed the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative.

United Fresh has been working with the White House for more than a year to develop the public-private partnership, and just having the First Lady on board puts a lot of clout behind efforts to improve nutrition in schools, said Ray Gilmer, United Fresh’s vice president of communications.

“We are thrilled to build upon the success and momentum of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative with Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools,” said Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of United Fresh.

“PBH is pleased to participate in the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools campaign and feels that this is an exciting way to get both the public and private sectors involved in bettering the health of America’s children,” said Elizabeth Pivonka, PBH president and CEO. Throughout 2010, the partners have already raised funding for more than 600 new school salad bars, she said.

“Adding a healthy salad bar to school lunch options is one of the most important things we can do to help improve school food, and this is a win-win for schools and their students,” said Chef Ann Cooper, founder of the Food, Family, Farming Foundation.

With donations from corporations, foundations and the public, Mr. Gilmer predicted the initiative will “shoot past” the 6,000 salad bar goal in three years.

Schools can begin the process by completing an on-line application and creating their own individualized web page at www.saladbars2schools.org. Schools can encourage donations for their own salad bar as well as receive donations from the initiative’s general funds.

The next step is to get Congress on board with federal funding.

“But there’s one last thing I want to make sure everybody knows, is that we also need Congress to do their part,” Ms. Obama told Miami school children. “And one of the things that we hope will get passed soon is the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill. And that’s going to provide money and resources to more schools so that we can improve nutrition, get better food into school lunchrooms, that we get more nutrition education into the classrooms, that we get more physical education.”