New school lunch options are coming to Greenway public schools. A new salad and soup bar will offer children new, healthier options during the 2017-2018 school year.

As childhood obesity continues to be an epidemic across the U.S., there has been a sharp increase in the number of schools that provide healthy offerings for their students. The hope is that encouraging a healthy diet among young students will encourage better eating habits, an important goal, especially considering that the average American eats 4.3 hamburgers per month.

There is a fair amount of research that shows that exposure to fruits and vegetables in school helps to familiarize students with types of food that they might get in the home, which can lead to more healthy food choices outside the cafeteria.

The introduction of a salad bar comes just two years after another program was instituted to increase students’ exposure to healthier foods. That is when Vandyke Elementary School initiated their Greenway Grows program, an outdoor learning experience that offers students the opportunity to participate in a school-wide garden.

Similar gardening are sprouting up across the country. In Palm Beach County, Florida, 123 schools have developed school gardening programs over the past three years alone. So far, these programs have met with tremendous success.

“Kids that grow food will try new food and are more likely to change their eating habits,” said Jeannine Rizz, the school garden coordinator partially responsible for the growth of such programs in Florida, said to WPTV.

But it isn’t only students who love these programs. With 79% of Americans believing that there are a number of different ways for children to learn and that not all students learn best in the same way, opportunities such as the Greenway Grows program, which gives students a hands-on educational experience, are a favorite for many parents.

Now, waste from the salad bar will become an integral part of the school’s garden, as students learn about how to recycle waste as compost. Additionally, this offers the students a real life biology lesson, giving a clear example of decomposition and the life cycle.

Officials at the school are excited for the new ways students can learn and experience, and hopeful that the conjunction of these two programs will have a lasting impact.

“Overall, the salad bar and the garden are a great pairing, they are valuable tools in creating lifelong learners with healthy habits,” Sue Hoeft, the Vandyke Elementary School Principal, said to the Grand Rapids Herald Review.

For parents interested in trying the school’s new salad bar, Greenway will be providing samples as part of their fall open houses. Two open houses are scheduled at the Greenway High School. The first will take place on August 29, the second on Thursday, August 31st.

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