“We become what we repeatedly do.” In his Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens Sean Covey used these words to help young students preparing to attend college and join the workforce, but they also apply to how children learn to eat healthy.
Through innovative programs like the Power of Produce (POP) Club, farmers markets across the country are teaching children how to make healthy eating choices. This program, started at the Oregon City Farmers Market, invites children to learn more about some of their favorite foods. Participating in events like planting sunflower seeds or making jam gives the youngsters a chance to better understand where their food comes from. By receiving $2 to spend on fresh produce every time they visit the market to keeping a log of what they buy, the children become immersed in a world of healthy eating. Last year, 1,781 children aged 5 to 12 years old joined, resulting in 5,180 shopping trips.
With the help of the Farmers Market Coalition, many other markets are taking notice of the POP Club’s success and building their own child-focused programs. In Charlottesville, Va., events like blending their own smoothies and playing games to identify vegetables gave children a chance to “get to know” fresh produce. A survey indicated that 83% of the children who participated in the activities tried and liked a new food at the Charlottesville City Market, thanks to the POP Club.
It takes a total team effort for programs like POP Club to successfully teach our children where their food comes from. Through our grant programs, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) works with states and other local community organizations to help bring educational opportunities to our nation’s children. Thanks to Specialty Crop Block Grant funds, Utah’s City of South Salt Lake can now use a new mobile produce market to increase the community’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Getting produce delivered to their neighborhoods, children will be exposed to more healthy foods, leading them on their way to developing healthier eating habits.
Here at USDA’s Farmers Market, we also provide educational opportunities for children and other market patrons, with a schedule that includes cooking demonstrations and other fun events. On market days, our People’s Garden team regularly invites visitors to get their hands dirty. Whether planting seeds or harvesting crops in the popular garden, they can use their green thumbs to bring more healthy food to the area and beautify it at the same time.
Health and nutrition will be part of the message at the August 9 USDA Farmers Market event, “Healthy Food and Healthy Living Day.” Celebrating how farmers markets bring communities together during National Farmers Market Week, visitors can participate in several activities sponsored by USDA. Guests can learn yoga from an instructor on the lawn near the People’s Garden, have their blood pressure checked, pick up healthy eating tips from a nutritionist, and learn about USDA Health and Wellness programs and services. If you are in Washington, DC, this week, make sure that you visit the USDA Farmers Market as part of your National Farmers Market Week celebration.