Salad days are here again in Grandview Heights Schools.

The district has added salad bars to the cafeteria at each school.

The salad bars, pans and serving utensils for the program were purchased with a $15,000 grant from the Grandview Heights/Marble Cliff Education Foundation, said food-service director Kyle Mahan.

"It's an opportunity to offer students more fresh produce, and hopefully, with more vegetables to choose from, they'll try them," he said.

"It's another way we can provide healthier food choices for our students."

Mahan said he hopes the salad bars will help increase the number of students who buy school lunches.

"The salad bars may draw some students who otherwise wouldn't be buying their lunch," he said.

The serve-yourself bars are incorporated into the serving lines at Edison Intermediate/ Larson Middle School and at the high school, he said. Because of space limitations, the salad bar is set up separately at Stevenson Elementary School.

A basic selection of peppers, cucumbers, grape tomatoes and lettuce is offered at the elementary school, whereas a more expansive list of vegetables -- including multicolored bell peppers, shredded carrots, soy-based bacon bits and such proteins as grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs and cheeses -- are offered at the other schools, Mahan said.

"With elementary students, they can really only reach the front row of pans on the salad bar, and we also have them use spoons rather than tongs because they're not quite as dexterous as the older students," he said.

Students may opt to include a side salad as part of their lunch, using an 8-ounce bowl or choose to make a larger entree salad in a 3-pound bowl, Mahan said.

The entree salad is a main-course choice offered each day at lunch in addition to the option of a hot menu item or a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, he said.

"We've always included a vegetable or a side salad in our lunch menu each day," Mahan said. "Now, with the salad bar, we can offer more choices on a daily basis and students can customize their salad or vegetable choices.

"Giving them the chance to customize their meals is really important in school lunches these days, because that's what they're used to being able to do when they go out to eat," Mahan said.

At Edison/Larson, about five to seven entree salads and about 15 side salads are purchased each day, he said.

About the same number of entree salads and between five and 10 side salads are purchased at the high school, Mahan said. Fewer students eat lunch in the cafeteria at the high school, where students are allowed to leave campus for lunch, he said.

The salad bar was introduced during the third week of school at Stevenson, and thus far, about three to seven entree salads and 35 side salads are being purchased each day, he said.

"The numbers are up at the elementary school because the novelty hasn't worn off yet," Mahan said.

Most of the produce is purchased through Gordon Food Service, but the district is working with Yellow Bird Foodshed to obtain more produce from local farmers, he said.

Some of the items offered at the salad bar are truly local.

On a recent day, the salad bars included greens grown in the tower garden in the high school kitchen; more veggies grown in the vertical gardens at each school and in the middle school garden will be served throughout the school year, Mahan said.

"It's kind of fun for students to eat vegetables they may have helped grow," he said.

Fourth-grader Bruno Lount selected a side salad as part of his lunch Sept. 5.

"I really like having the salad bar," he said. "My favorite part is getting to pick what you want for your salad. You can choose what you like.

"Last year, we didn't have a salad bar, and sometimes the vegetable wasn't one you liked, so you didn't eat it," Bruno said.

Fifth-grader Calder Gentile chose to make an entree salad his main course for lunch.

"I don't really like some of the normal food items they serve, so I'm glad we have the salad bar," he said. "There were times when I wouldn't buy a lunch when we didn't have the salad bar."

Calder said he likes the cheese and the salad dressings offered at the salad bar because they make tasty toppings for the vegetables.

The entree salad "really fills you up," he said. "It's good that we have a healthier choice of what we can eat."