Salad bars at Libby schools turn out to be a big hit
“Let’s get Mikey. He hates everything. ... He likes it! Hey, Mikey!”
— Life cereal TV commecial
Remember that iconic TV commercial? ... In the Quaker Oats commercial for Life cereal, two older brothers debate who should be the first to try this new healthy cereal.
“I’m not gonna try it—you try it!” the older brothers debate.
Then, they turn to youngest brother Mikey, who allegedly “hates everything.”
Little Mikey pauses, and then digs right in, and, as they say, the rest is history.
The low-budget commercial actually catapulted Life to the forefront, I recall, as it even ended up in the Gerstenecker cupboard, replacing Wheaties and my brother’s favorite Cap’n Crunch.
Certainly, we were finicky eaters back then, as most high school age kids are.
I guess that’s why when Libby School Board administrators said they were going to offer a salad bar in the high school cafeteria, I was skeptical.
I mean, if teens had their druthers, wouldn’t they rather eat pizza, cheeseburgers and fries every day for lunch and supper?
Well, as it turns out, that’s not the case at Libby Middle-High School.
Right at about noon Wednesday, I stopped in the school cafeteria, at the urging of Principal Rik Rewerts during Monday night’s School Board meeting.
Rewerts reported to board members the salad bar was getting rave reviews from his students. And, it didn’t stop there.
It also was a big hit at Libby Elementary School, according to Principal Ron Goodman.
So, in the spirit of the late, great Andy Rooney, I set off to LHS in an attempt to find out for myself. I would have gone to the elementary school, but getting high school-age youth is difficult enough to speak. I wasn’t going to press it further with elementary kids.
So, arriving in the cafeteria, there it was — the salad bar on a push cart. Nice, neat, chilled.
There were carrots, nice styrofoam eight-ounce — by volumne — servings of salad, with grated cabbage, beets and a choice of salad dressings.
Looking away toward the students, who turned out to be Middle-Schoolers, it didn’t take long to spot students with the trays containing salad.
First, there was seventh-grader Jarun Graziano.
He had milk, nachos with a bean and cheese covering, a nice serving of dessert AND the serving of salad.
“Yeah, it’s good,” Jarun offered.
“It must be. You’re eating it first, before anything else.”
“It’s the carrots. I like the carrots,” he replied.
“So, I’ve been told the salad bar is a big hit. Would you agree?”
“Yeah, I guess so. But I’m not surprised. I see a lot of kids eating this.”
Noticing Jarun didn’t have any dressing on his salad, I asked about that.
“So, no dressing for you? You don’t like the offerings.”
“Naw, I just like it without. Dressings are OK, I just like it this way.”
Score ONE for the healthy lunch.
I moved to the next table where I saw Nathaniel Galloway, an eighth-grader, whose salad was smothered in ranch dressing.
“How about you — you a big fan of the salad bar?”
“It’s good,” Nathaniel replied, staying a bit tight-lipped.
“You’re a big fan of the dressing, huh?”
“It makes it better,” he said adding he heard the interview with Jarun. He then offered: “I AM surprised how many students like it. Seems everybody does. It’s like they’re saying ‘Wow! this is really good.’”
Taking in Nathaniel’s comments, it was then, in that instant, I flashed back 40 years to young Mikey from the Life cereal commerical of my youth.
As Yogi Berra would say, “It was deja vu all over again.”
Interestingly, these students didn’t complain about the price increase — 25 cents — having the salad bar has wrought upon them. No, not every student’s tray had the salad bowls, but on the table I spied, there were four others.
Score TWO for the healthy lunch.
Frank Hendrickson, of Kootenai Catering, who supplies the school lunches with Henry’s Cafe, said the salad bar has been a “huge success.”
Obviously. A home run. The Wellness Committee has hit one out of the park with this one.
And, said Hendrickson, Libby has instituted the program before it’s mandated.
Hendrickson explained the district is up for a Bronze Award for its implementation for the salad bar.
Who would have thought it would be such a big hit with kids? But then, who would have bet little Mikey to like Life, the cereal?
But then, Life is full of surprises.
(Alan Lewis Gerstenecker is editor of The Western News. His column appears weekly.)