Rainbow Days

A Rainbow Day is a great way to get your students acclimated to the salad bar in your cafeteria. It also introduces the concept of eating a plate full of colorful fruits and vegetables.

On Rainbow Day, students are asked to use fruits and vegetables from the salad bar to create a “rainbow” of at least three colors on their tray. Once they have finished eating their creations, they’ll receive a sticker or other small reward.

We recommend obtaining financial sponsorship so that a free salad can be offered to every student. This is a foundation exercise that will produce long-term impact. Possible sponsors could include local businesses and existing vendors, or you could even pursue a grant, such as the CAF’s Project Produce grant, for the event.

Key Benefits

  • Nutrition: Introduces the concept of “eating the rainbow.” The simple practice of selecting different colors of fruits and vegetables for their plates enriches the students’ nutrition in a fun and accessible way. The event also helps students gain the confidence to seek out and try new foods. It also teaches them to “take what you can eat, and eat what you take” which is not only a good habit it will also help reduce cafeteria waste.
  • Etiquette: Teaches students how to use a salad bar, including utensil use and management of the tray and serving boat or plate, and raises their awareness of the possibility of spills and cross-contamination.
  • Participation: When marketed in advance, a Rainbow Day event will increase meal participation.
  • School and Parent Engagement: This activity is designed to bring food services, school administrators, teachers, and parents together in the dining room to participate in an activity that not only has a direct impact on children’s health, but also showcases food services.
  • Teacher Engagement: A Rainbow Day can be an opportunity for a food service focused event to link with classroom education. We’ve seen all kinds of examples, including musical compositions created or performed to accompany the event, language-arts projects like rainbow poetry, classes of students dressed in rainbow colors and costumes and artwork connecting fruits and vegetables to the rainbow theme.
  • Administrative and Parent Volunteer Engagement: Food services staff members may be the unsung heroes of your school. Creating a Rainbow Day gives administrators and parent volunteers a chance to work together with food services staff. It also involves them in an educational activity in the cafeteria, a location rarely identified as a learning environment.
  • Community Sponsorship: This activity creates the opportunity for community sponsorship, which will allow the entire student population to participate, no matter whether they are participating in the reimbursable meal program or bringing lunch from home. Sponsorship can cover the additional costs of providing a free side salad to every child. Making the event inclusive increases the potential long-term impact of a Rainbow Day through encouraging future reimbursable meal participation from children who routinely pack a lunch from home.

Documents & Resources

  • Rainbow Days Planning How-To Guide: This guide covers every aspect of planning—from communication to event-day tasks.
  • Rainbow Days Guide (PDF): This downloadable copy includes all the information offered in the Rainbow Days section of the website.
  • Rainbow Days Letter to Administration: You’ll want to get permission to host your event in the cafeteria during lunch. While you’re at it, ask for support in marketing your tastings to the school community.
  • Rainbow Days Volunteer Outreach Letter: Distribute this letter through your PTA/PTO to enlist volunteers and to promote your event.
  • Sample Volunteer Guide: This guide sets the standard for your school food program by outlining responsibilities and expectations for your volunteers.
  • Rainbow Days Event Flyer: Add your event information to this printable flyer and hang it throughout your school and cafeteria leading up to the event.
  • Rainbow Days Ingredients List: Use this list (translated into Spanish) to help plan a colorful variety of fruits and veggies for kids to choose from when making their "rainbows" at the salad bar. 
  • I Made a Rainbow Sticker: Have stickers created using this "I Made a Rainbow" design. Give stickers to students as a reward for eating their full salad.

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