Green cycling

The Tour de Fresh raises money for salad bars in schools

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Courtesy Chris Ford

Diet and exercise are staples of a healthy lifestyle. So naturally, cycling to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to school age children makes sense. On Oct. 19-22, 50 riders from the natural foods industry will participate in the second annual Tour de Fresh and Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) will be one of the beneficiaries.

The Tour de Fresh is a four-day road cycling event, averaging 75 miles a day, from Hickory, North Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia. Founded by the California Giant Foundation, the ride is designed as a group event to finish at the Produce Marketing Association’s annual fresh summit convention and expo. The goal is to raise $250,000 or enough to place 100 salad bars in schools across the nation.

Chris Ford rode in the inaugural Tour de Fresh last year and chose to ride for BVSD this year after seeing it on the recipient list. “When I saw Boulder Valley on the list of schools that were participating, to me it was a no brainer, because although there are a ton of resources and it’s a very progressive community, it’s clear that there is still room to provide kids with healthy food options,” Ford says.

“It’s a shame to me that this point in time, with all the resources that we have, that we can’t provide kids with an opportunity to have fresh foods,” he continues. “The fact that it’s coupled with one of my main passions of cycling, it is a perfect opportunity for me to be involved in this cause.”

Although Ford now lives in Carmel Valley, California, where he is the vice president of Sutherland Foods, he started his natural foods career at Alfalfa’s Market in Boulder in 1994.

“Back then, at Alfalfa’s, it was just fun,” Ford reminisces. “It never seemed like a job to me, it was just a blast to be there — you were working with your friends, you were working hard and you were proud to have that be the go-to place in the community.”

Since his time in Boulder, Ford has seen the natural foods industry grow and become more accessible to more people. “In the last three to five years, the mainstream consumer has finally embraced organic produce, instead of it being relegated to more specialty stores like back in the day at Alfalfa’s,” he says. “Now organics are available in a much broader area, accessible to more people and frankly, it’s more affordable because the scale of the farms has increased, and the quality.”

But there’s still more to be done to provide fresh fruit and vegetables in schools. Ford has a fundraising goal of $5,000 to go toward the purchase and installation of new salad bar equipment at a BVSD school. The salad bar will be given through a grant from the Let’s Move Salad Bars Back to Schools initiative, which seeks to provide salad bar equipment for schools across the nation, as a way of combatting childhood obesity. According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents of school age in the U.S. are obese.

“I really believe that kids need access to fresh fruits and vegetables and salad bars are the best possible delivery method,” says Ann Cooper, BVSD director of Food Services.

BVSD has 13 schools in need of new salad bar equipment, Cooper says, and the money Ford raises through the Tour de Fresh will provide one if not two.  At a cost of $3,000 each, Cooper says the donated equipment goes a long way to provide access to fresh fruit and vegetables.

BVSD spends approximately $750,000 on fresh fruits and vegetables across the district each year, purchasing 50,000 pounds of locally grown produce, in addition to other sources, says Cooper. BVSD serves approximately 12,000 meals a day throughout the district.

Tour de Fresh riders are raising funds for salad bars based on research that found kids tend to try different fruits and vegetables and incorporate them into their daily diet when given more access and variety. Plus, Cooper runs programs at BVSD that reward kids for trying new items from the salad bar. The end goal is for kids to learn healthy eating choices at a younger age, making it a future lifestyle, not a passing fad.

As a father of two school-aged children, Ford says he’s also motivated to help kids start making healthy eating choices at a young age. “Basically they can make these decisions that are going to carry over for a lifetime,” he says. “Even if we reach some kids, not all of them, it’s going to be an opportunity to grow the next generation of people that seek out fresh food.”