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"Rainbow Days" inspire students to get creative with veggies

You don’t need a pot of gold to make a rainbow, students at Creekside Elementary School in Boulder learned during “Rainbow Day” May 15.

And the pot of gold just might be the nutrients kids get when they eat a colorful plate of vegetables.

That was the point of the Boulder Valley School District’s second annual “Rainbow Days,” in which hundreds of elementary students were challenged to make colorful plates.

BVSD partners with the Growe Foundation and EVOL Foods to put on the free event. The Growe Foundation helps put gardens into schools so they can supply some of the salad ingredients themselves, while EVOL Foods supplies manpower by having each employee donate 16 volunteer hours per academic quarter.

“EVOL makes a product for when people are in a situation when they can’t cook,” EVOL spokeswoman and assistant brand manager Stephanie Winslow said. “But we prefer families to cook and eat whole foods, so this is a perfect partnership.”

Second-graders at Creekside harvested the lettuce in two shifts the day before the school’s Rainbow Day celebration. In addition to picking the lettuce, they washed, spun, and weighed the leaves, totaling in at around 30 pounds.

“We buy organic lettuce for the salad bar every week, but it’s nice to have the garden to supply us,” Nutrition Services District Manager Eric Ditzler said.

Winslow supplied kids with stickers if they ate their salads and passed out trays so the kids could eat seconds. So many kids tried the salads at Creekside that the salad bin had to be restocked twice in 40 minutes.

“One kid came back for a third helping,” fifth grade parent Dave Hoyt said. “That’s what gets them excited. We are homegrown.”

According to Ditzler, most of the BVSD elementary schools have gardens and the middle schools are starting to implement them. Not only does Creekside have the largest garden, but it was also the first.

It all started at Creekside

The Growe Foundation targeted Creekside to pilot the program six years ago because the school already had the perfect location for a garden. Abbondanza Organic Seeds and Produce, located in Boulder, helped get the garden growing by teaching soil ecology and organic farming techniques to students, teachers and parents.

When the program first started, the goal was to just get a garden in the ground that would yield a crop.

Today, the garden is tied extensively to each grade’s curriculum.

For the lower grades, soil chemistry and the growing cycle are stressed, while the upper grades use the plants to learn about statistics, climate and the water cycle.

Once Creekside had a tangible product to show off, the school notified the media, including 9NEWS, and decided it would be great to get gardens growing at other BVSD schools as well.

“We went to the district and said, ‘If one was good, more is better,’” Hoyt said. “Six years ago, it was a vision.”

That vision has since been implemented in 14 elementary schools, all of which celebrated Rainbow Days between May 11 and 18.

“Do we have to pay for this?” a Creekside student asked, holding up her salad.

“No, just take it, eat it, and enjoy,” kitchen manager Ann Korda said.

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