Farmers Market Shows Kids the Power of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

By Jeremy Aiello, Intern, Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce

Kids eating applesMany of you may already know Chambersburg has its own farmer’s market, held from late May to early October at 50 North Main Street downtown. The North Square Farmers Market is a vehicle for local growers, producers and artisans to sell their product, and gives us all the chance to support the local economy.

One program that you may not have heard of is the POP, or Power of Produce, Club for kids ages 3-12 organized by Healthy Communities Partnership of Greater Franklin County.

The POP Club was introduced to the market in May of 2014 with four simple goals in mind:  
  1. To increase fruit and vegetable consumption among children.  
  2. Get children enthused about healthy, nutritious eating.  
  3. Increase support and awareness about the North Square Farmers Market.  
  4. Teach children about the importance of supporting local farmers.
The program is run every Saturday at the same time as the Farmers Market. To keep track of participation each kid is given a card, which is kept at the market and stamped for record. Then, each kid receives a $2 wooden token they may use to buy only fresh fruits or vegetables with. 

POP ClubThe program also offers workshops to provide education and opportunities for participating kids and families at least twice per month. Previous workshops have covered a variety of topics, including beekeeping, worms, composting, planting sunflower seeds in biodegradable newspaper pots, kids' fitness activities, tasting the rainbow of fruits and vegetables, market scavenger hunts, fruit infused water tastings, vegetable literacy and more! 

During the first year of the program, the POP Club enrolled 410 children. The children visited the market a total of 1,821 times during the 22-week season.  

Parents of children visiting the market during the last two weeks of the season were asked to fill out a survey about the program. In all, parents of 86 children completed surveys. Of these, 73% of those responding said their child’s eating habits changed during the program and 78% said their family’s shopping habits changed as a result of the program. Most families reporting no change stated that their family already consumed large amounts of healthy, local produce before the program.  

As apparent from their survey feedback, the first year of the program was a success in the eyes of the parents, who were overwhelmingly positive in their surveys. Some notable comments: When asked the best part of the program, one parent stated, “The volunteers and their passion for a healthier community.” Another stated, “I think the program is wonderful and it is one of the reasons our family travels approximately 30 minutes to come to the North Square Farmers Market.”  

Farmers MarketMany parents reported their children loved to pick their own produce and tried new fruits and vegetables as a result of POP. Parents appreciated that the program encouraged healthy behavior in a fun, new way. Many survey respondents reported coming to the market much more often due to the children wanting to come to get their weekly tokens to buy fruits and/or vegetables.

The market saw drastic increases in sales volumes, which has an on impact the local economy. Many of the farmers and vendors thanked Healthy Communities Partnership during the season for spearheading this effort.

So far this season, the POP Club has enrolled 400 children by week 5. Their goal is to have 500-600 kids before the end of the season in October. If your child is between the ages 3-12, give them the chance to learn about their local farmers market through the Power of Produce Club. 

The program is made possible through grants from Summit Endowment and the Franklin County Foundation. Additionally, sponsors are solicited from businesses and individuals to continue to sustain the free produce for children. 

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