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The Grand Rapids Press
East Elementary students in Grandville Michigan were treated to a salad bar lunch in May as part of a grant from the Grandville Education Foundation. (Courtesy photo)
GRANDVILLE, Mich. (AP) - Instead of eating a sandwich from home or a prepared "hot lunch" meal, East Elementary sixth grader CeJay Jones munched on lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and other assorted toppings from the school's first salad bar lunch.
"It tastes better than what's usually for lunch," the 12-year-old told The Grand Rapids Press ( http://bit.ly/1oYclBG ). "And it's a lot healthier for you."
East Elementary students were treated to a salad bar lunch in May as part of a grant from the Grandville Education Foundation. Since last year, the school has received nearly $4,000 in foundation grants for a community garden.
The 900-square-foot community garden, located on the southeast side of the school's property, includes six raised produce beds and a compost bin.
In May, students helped build the produce beds, fill them with soil mixture and plant seedlings - mainly vegetables, including lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, squash, beans, onions, beets, carrots and potatoes. They also planted apple trees and blueberry and raspberry bushes and learned about seed germination, farm to table and recycling.
During the summer months, sixth-grade teacher Sally VanEck, who organized the school's community garden, and nearby neighbors will tend to the garden until school resumes in September. When classes resume, students will continue the farm lesson.
"When planting the garden, students understood the need for fresh fruit and vegetables," said VanEck. "We did this as a way to encourage kids to choose healthy eating options, like a salad bar."
VanEck used part of the grant money to offer the school's first salad bar organized by sixth-graders.
While a hot lunch meal at the Grandville elementary school level costs $1.95, the salad bar option cost slightly less than $1 per person, according to VanEck.
"I personally think the salad bar lunch was better," CeJay said.
Students also researched how much lunch food was being tossed in the garbage and discovered that less salad bar "goober" - or leftover food - was being discarded than hot lunch goober. According to the students' research, an average of about 13 pounds of salad bar goober a day was thrown out compared to about 30 pounds of hot lunch goober, VanEck said.
"The kids just loved it - it was a huge hit," she said of the salad bar. "It showed that there is a healthier alternative for our students."