CULLMAN – The North Alabama Agriplex is partnering with Festhalle Farmer’s Market and Cullman County Extension to implement a national children’s program at the market for the 2016 season, which begins on April 2. Power of Produce, or POP for short, aims to increase children’s produce consumption while encouraging their families to buy local, fresh produce at the farmer’s market.
The POP Club will run a booth providing produce samples, nutritional education, cooking demonstrations, physical activities and tokens for children to spend at the market the first Saturday of each month during the market season. Registered children (ages 4-12) receive a ‘Passport’ that documents all they try and buy throughout the market season. Each child receives $2 worth of tokens to spend on raw produce, such as strawberries in May or squash in July, thereby empowering them to make their own healthy food decisions. The program’s goal is to encourage a healthy lifestyle during summer break.
At farmer’s markets across the country, POP has been very successful. Surveyors at Oregon City’s program found 72 percent of participants tried a new fruit or vegetable through the program. 70 percent of parents reported that their children requested produce that they tried through the POP Club. Even programs in areas with higher rates of low income saw similar results. 88 percent of participants in Charlottesville, Virginia, a program with high rates of low income participants, said they tried and liked a new food through the POP program. The vendors succeed in this program as well; vendors at Oregon City’s market saw a sales increase of 35 percent due to the POP program.
Over forty percent of adults are overweight in Cullman County, and nationally a third of children are overweight or obese. Starting children on a path of fun physical activities and healthy eating habits is one of the best ways to reduce that number. The Cullman County Community Health Coalition listed in its 2013 report the need to “work with local groups to help improve the overall wellness of the community through FREE community programs that enhance wellness as a lifestyle.” The POP program incorporates the strong agricultural heritage of Cullman County while addressing the concerns of the future of our community.
For more information about Cullman’s Festhalle Farmer’s Market, visit http://cullmanrecreation.org/facilties-parks/festhalle-marketplatz/. The market is located at 209 First Ave. NE and is open from April through October on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m.-2 p.m.