Recently I read a wonderful article in our local paper called the Power of Produce or POP. What is POP? It’s a local club that sets out to provide a fun way to have children learn about the local food system in their neighborhoods, talk to local farmers and try new fruits and vegetables.
The club started in Hartland, Vermont three years ago after Carol Stedman attended a workshop at the Vermont Farmers Market Association conference. It’s the third year the club has been in existence and they now have over 70 children participating. Power of Produce originally started in May 2011 at the Oregon city Farmers Market in Oregon City, Oregon. The programs mission was three fold: to empower children to make healthy food choices, to strengthen and sustain healthy communities through supporting farmers and cultivating future farmers market supporters and to expand farmers markets from a retail location into a place where children can try new foods, and earn about healthy eating.
How does it work? In Hartland, Vermont Power of Produce encourages children ages 5-12 to make healthy food choices by offering educational activities, cooking demonstrations and food sampling. In addition each child is provided with “three POP bucks” in market currency to spend on fresh produce. This encourages the children to engage in the local food system though conversations with farmers, buying local, and understanding the importance of making healthy food choices.
Children fill out a POP passport, collect the week’s scavenger hunt list, visit the various farmers to answer the questions from the list, taste fruits and vegetables and fill out their passport to earn POP bucks. With bucks in hand they can shop at the market for fresh fruits and vegetables. Each week they also learn how to make a recipe of the day, which they can take home, and share with their families.
Power of Produce is catching on around the country. Surveys have found that children who participate influence their parents’ food purchasing choices. In addition, farmers markets that have set up POP clubs found an overall increase in sales for their vendors.
Have you ever heard of Power of Produce? I think it is a wonderful idea and one that should be a part of every farmers market. The more people that start making healthy food choices the healthier we’ll be as a country!