Encouraging children to eat fruits and vegetables can be a daunting task, but an innovative program in Oregon City, Ore., is making it easier for some parents.
Children are among enthusiastic shoppers buying carrots and cucumbers at the Oregon City (Ore.) Farmers Market, where they belong to the POP (Power of Produce) Club and receive free wooden tokens to spend with vendors.
“I thought if we could get kids to the market and give them buying power, they would be more inclined to eat what they purchased,” market manager Jackie Hammond-Williams says.
Hammond-Williams created the POP Club last year with a Clackamas County Health Department grant to encourage healthful eating. About 1,000 children, ages 5 to 12, signed up and accompany their parents to the market in downtown Oregon City (pop. 31,859).
Toting their cloth market bags each Saturday, Aliyah Kelly, 8, and her brother, Luke, 6, get their “Passports to Health” cards stamped when they arrive, then collect $2 in wooden tokens to spend. After 10 market visits, they reap more rewards, such as a granola bar or a fresh-fruit smoothie.
“Last Saturday, I bought raspberries and strawberries,” Aliyah says. “I like to put them in plain vanilla yogurt.” On an earlier visit, the children bought tomato and pepper plants and planted their own garden.
Shopping at the farmers market has improved the family’s eating habits, says their mother, Amber Kelly, 33.
“I used to go to the farmers market once or twice a year to buy our hanging plants, but had never bought produce there before,” Amber says. “Now, Luke wants long carrots with the greenery on them, and my daughter’s favorite is cucumbers because they’re so fresh.”
Hammond-Williams, 58, says POP Club members meet farmers and learn how their favorite foods are grown. “They’re buying kale and fresh fruits,” she says. “We take their pictures with their produce. We’re raising the next generation of farmers market shoppers.”