By Olivia Swanson, Power of Produce Club Lead and Americorps VISTA Volunteer
2022 was the third year CCE has operated the Power of Produce (POP) Club in person; and we’d call it another successful season. We were able to take our program even further offering more hands-on lessons and activities, expanding to a new farmers’ market location, and engaging with nearly 400 kids.
This program was made possible because of our generous sponsors including Adirondack For Kids, the Charles R. Wood Foundation, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Smart Growth Grant.
Over 20 weeks this farmers’ market season in both Saranac Lake and Elizabethtown, we taught and engaged with kids on topics ranging from healthy ecosystems and bird migration to herbs and carrots. Examples of activities children participated in included making their own butterfly feeder, creating fall leaf rubbings, going on market scavenger hunts, creating finger puppets, and more! While we offered a fruit or veggie taste test weekly, sometimes our taste tests became the activity. For example, one week we purchased 4 herbs from a vendor, and kids were challenged to use their senses to identify the herbs, evaluating their appearance, smell, taste and texture. They then completed a ranking sheet based on how each herb stacked up. We offered a similar activity trying orange, purple, and white carrots. During our radish week, kids created their taste test by constructing mice out of radishes. We found they were more eager to try the vegetable when they could have fun with it first!
“My son loved doing the activities and it helped him feel less shy about talking with vendors. He loved buying his own food! We now regularly buy some veggies that we would never have tried without POP club.”
Overall, the 2022 season was filled with delicious fruits and veggies for the kids to try, many of which they tasted enthusiastically. Fourth of July weekend kids were offered red, white, and blueberries when we sampled raspberries, pine berries, and Saskatoon berries. Another weekend, we offered habanada peppers, reassuring the skeptics that they were sweet peppers, not spicy! A third week, kids were begging to try a piece of our cantaloupe from the mouth of the frog we carved the cantaloupe into. After stoking kids’ excitement about trying fruits and veggies, they often left our table eager to pick out their own produce to bring back home.
With the $5 we offered to each kid to purchase their own produce, it was a regular sight to see children leaving the farmers’ market with carrots, cucumbers, onions, apples, berries, and more that they had picked out and bought themselves. In total, $2,645 was handed out to kids throughout the season and spent on fruits and veggies from our local producers!
An exciting opportunity that we were able to offer this year for the first time, was cooking lessons with the kids. One week we made pico de gallo using market-fresh ingredients. After making their own fresh salsa, kids were given a recipe and ingredient scavenger hunt. Some kids loved their salsa so much they made seconds and thirds! In the fall, we made raw applesauce with kids using apples sold at the market. In both demonstrations kids learned and practiced their cutting/dicing skills, preparing them to be involved in the cooking of their own market produce at home.
“I love that it helps to educate my son about healthy foods and encourages him to try new things.“
Operating a community program that supports environmental education, healthy living, and promotes local food, is an opportunity we are incredibly grateful for. The importance of the Power of Produce Club was reinforced with our 2022 survey results. Out of all the parents surveyed, 81% reported that they either attended the farmers’ market more often and/or did more shopping than they normally would at the market due to the POP Club. Additionally, 81% also reported that their children were more likely to try and eat fruits and vegetables with the taste tests we offered and the $5 we gave to each child to purchase their own produce. We have been encouraged by these results and the feedback we have received, and are already looking forward to next season. Thank you again to our community members for all the support and our generous donors which helped make this past farmers’ market season one of growth, fun, and success for the Power of Produce Club.
“My kids love the POP Club and are begging to go to the market every Saturday because of it. The activities are always new and exciting and never fail to capture the minds of our little ones. We all look forward to it and it’s the first thing we visit at the market!“