Monticello market 'PoPs' into healthy plan for kids
The kids came weekly, tokens in hand, to buy some of the best food they’ve ever tasted. Were they coming to buy pizza or candy? No! They went to the Monticello Farmers Market last summer to buy fruits and vegetables.
The Crow River Food Council, Monticello Farmers Market and Live Wright, Wright County's Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) grantee, teamed up to support Monticello's Power of Produce (PoP) program, which ran for 12 weeks (from July 9 through Sept. 24) in 2015. It encouraged children, ages 4-12, to visit the farmers market to get tokens to trade for fresh fruit and vegetables.
PoP clubs are popular at farmers markets across the country. “SHIP staff worked directly with the market director to tailor the PoP Kids Club to the Monticello Farmers Market,” said Joel Torkelson, Live Wright’s active living and healthy eating coordinator.
It is very important for kids to learn where their food comes from. - Sara Cahill, Program/Operations Coordinator for Monticello Community Center
How PoP works
Four hundred twenty-six kids enrolled in the 2015 program and got $2 tokens each time they visited the market. They could use the tokens immediately or pool them with tokens earned by their siblings or friends to make larger purchases.
“It is very important for kids to learn where their food comes from,” said Sara Cahill, Program/Operations Coordinator for Monticello Community Center. “The kids would come to the market and see that it’s very different from a store.”
After the 2015 season, Monticello Community Center sent out surveys to parents. Thirty-three percent of the respondents said their children ate more fruits and vegetables at home after the program and 100 percent of them said they’ll bring their children this summer.
“Kids met the farmers and asked questions,” Cahill said. “The farmers would give tips to them on how to prepare and eat various fruit and vegetables and encouraged them to try different, less familiar vegetables.”
This year’s PoP program in Monticello will run July 14 through Sept. 29, and the number of PoP participants is expected to increase to about 500.
Sweet peppers became a sweet discovery
One week during last year’s program, a girl who was having trouble finding anything bought a box of sweet peppers to feed to her pet rabbit.
A vendor encouraged her to try one of the peppers herself, telling her she didn’t have to like it, but “just try it.” The girl returned the following week and announced that she tried the peppers and liked them.
“I hope the program gives kids a sense of pride in picking out and purchasing fruits and vegetables and in buying directly from the farmers,” Cahill said. “I expect the program to result in more kids participating and them eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.”
“This is a great program,” one parent responded in the survey. “My kids were so into it! (This is a great way) to keep our kids on a healthy path.”