Every year the schools in Missouri’s Raymore Peculiar R II district celebrate their salad bars during “Rainbow Days.” Thanks to the staff’s efforts to use local farmers markets, students throughout the district see fresh peppers, squash, onion, zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, green beans, corn on the cob, peaches, apples, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon and more.
“Whatever’s in season, they’ll try it,” said District Food Service Director Colleen Johnston, “our kids are good experimenters.”
Even the veggies get in the spirit of “Rainbow Days” at Eagle Glen Intermediate School, in Missouri’s Raymore Peculiar R II School District
Missouri schools hold Rainbow Days celebrations and feature the abundance of bright colors at their salad bars as a way of encouraging students to eat a variety of foods. To help promote the events, schools can qualify for a $200 stipend.
“The students love the veggie bar,” said Peculiar Elementary Food Service Manager Carol Johnson, “It looks colorful and appetizing.”
Through this activity, Missouri estimates that 4500 elementary school children have been exposed to a variety of fruits and vegetables through Missouri schools’ salad bars.
“Our students have eaten well from our vegetable bar for the last four or five years,” said Johnston. “This event strengthens our commitment to our students, parents and staff.”
In the Raymore Peculiar R II district, Rainbow Days increases the salad bar visits and sales for not only the event but long afterwards too. Data shows about a 20 percent increase in salad bar sales districtwide, from 60 days before Rainbow Days to the event, and again between the event and 60 days after.
“The event was a huge success with increased participation across the board,” Johnston said. “Students were filling up their plates to create their rainbows.”
Along with the students benefiting from the multitude of nutrients in the fresh veggies and fruits, local fruit and vegetable growers are benefiting from the District’s policy of purchasing locally harvested produce. Johnston explained that her staff visit an Amish farmers market once or twice weekly and bring the freshest produce back to the schools for the veggie bars.
“It’s quite an effort, but it’s really worth it,” Johnston said.
And the kids like the salad bar choices. For the high school students, veggies are arranged and presented on trays that resemble party platters.
Raymore Peculiar R II School District introduces fresh veggies to students on trays, “like it’s a party!” said Food Service Director Colleen Johnston
“It looks like they’re at a party,” said Johnston: “Our older students are cleaning us out of veggies on a consistent basis!”