By Emma Crowningshield, Americorps VISTA Volunteer.
2023 Marked the fourth consecutive year of hosting the Power of Produce (POP) club in person, and once again, it was a triumphant season. The program offered lessons and activities for all ages and market-fresh taste tests to participants. Throughout the summer, nearly 450 kids participated in the program!
This program was made possible through the invaluable support of our gracious sponsors, who have contributed significantly to its realization, including Adirondack For Kids, the Charles R. Wood Foundation, and Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital.
For 10 weeks this farmer’s market season, we attended farmers’ markets in Lake Placid, Elizabethtown, and Saranac Lake. We facilitated learning experiences and actively interacted with children and families through topics such as pollination, farms, and the farm cycle, the 3 Rs, pest management, and composting. Kids enjoyed making their own flapping butterflies that they could fly around the market and making their favorite fruits and veggies out of pipe cleaners. One week, we learned about composting and soil at the market. The kids learned about the natural cycles of decomposition and the importance of reducing waste. They learned that organic materials, such as food scraps and yard waste, can be recycled into nutrient-rich soil instead of ending up in landfills, where they contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. We played sorting games where the kids were able to sort items into trash, compost, and recycling. We also planted sunflower seeds in dixie cups that the kids were then able to go home and replant themselves. We had activities that allowed kids to explore the market, such as scavenger hunts that encouraged them to go talk to the farmers themselves.
Through taste tests each week, children were able to try new fruits and vegetables. The kids were always eager to try out our taste test of the week and even more excited to go buy produce of their own.
After doing the activities and trying the taste tests, kids were offered $5 to purchase their own produce. You could see kids leaving the market with items such as tomatoes, beets, carrots, berries, and more that they picked out themselves. The kids really enjoyed being able to pick and buy their own produce and rarely made it out of the market without taking a taste test of their own pick. In 10 weeks, $2,030 was distributed to children, which they subsequently used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from our local growers!
Another successful year of POP Club has shown us how running a community program that directly reaches out to our younger generations and enriches their knowledge of healthy living, local food, and environmental education is a privilege we deeply appreciate. Every week, the kids are eager to learn and try new things. Some kids even asked their parents to come to two markets a week! Through our survey results this year, we saw that parents enjoyed bringing their kids to POP Club every week because it offers an engaging environment where their children can explore various weekly topics and participate in interactive activities. 83% of parents surveyed are returning from previous years and come to the farmers market because of the POP Club.
100% of the parents surveyed said they attend the markets more often, and do more shopping, and their children are more open to trying or eating fruits and vegetables with the $5 handout because of the POP Club. This year’s results have reinforced the impact and value of our program. We understand and hold in high regard how the community feels about our program and we are already looking forward to next year. We are truly grateful to our community members for their unwavering support and to our generous donors who played a pivotal role in ensuring that this recent farmers’ market season was marked by expansion, enjoyment, and triumph for the Power of Produce Club.
Some things parents shared about the Power of Produce Club this summer:
“The activities are ready for children with a lot of useful information about insects, recycling, plants etc.”
“I love the activities they have for kids to do. My daughter loves it! Thank you”
“How nice, inviting, and welcoming it is for the kids!”
“Love the fun activities and the girls who run it” “My kids enjoy the craft and being able to buy and pick produce!”
“They love the crafts + friendliness!”
“The girls who run it are so much fun and the kids love spending time doing the activities”