“Exposing kids to fruits and vegetables at an early age increases the likelihood that they’ll eat veggies and fruit as adults,” says Kelly Wilson, RDN. “This is really important as we know that eating fruits and vegetables is a huge tool for preventing chronic disease.” Want to introduce your kids to new fruits and vegetables, food demonstrations, educational games, and connect them to local farmers? Enroll them in a Power of Produce (PoP) Club at your local farmers market! Offered at many markets across the state, PoP Clubs are incentive programs that provide kids $2 a week to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables after they participate in a fun weekly activity.
Here are examples of how PoP Clubs work in two communities:
Oak Park Farmers Market
Maralee Rosemond, Oak Park’s Farmers Market Manager, was inspired to start a PoP program during the pandemic to keep the market experience fun, safe, and exciting for all kids.
So far, PoP has been a huge hit. “Parents absolutely love this program because their kids are trying new things and are able to pick out their own produce,” says Rosemond. Farmers are also excited about the increased sales. Last year, participating kids spent $2,600 on fresh produce.
After engaging 450 children in 2020, the Oak Park PoP Club is back July 14 – August 18. Participating kids will receive free take home activities and books centered on this year’s theme (the five senses) and money to spend on market produce.
Rosemond is excited to kick off another year of the program. “The whole thing is really amazing. Oak Park is such a diverse area and just to see everyone coming together at the market, because of a program like this, is wonderful. And both the parents and kids love it. The kids are asking to come back, they’re excited. There isn’t just one special moment, it’s all of it.”
Want to register your child? Call the Oak Park Farmers Market at 248-691-7555.
Muskegon Farmers Market
In 2014, the Muskegon Farmers Market was looking for a way to encourage more families to attend the market. They found the PoP program and were immediately attracted to its focus on encouraging kids to try more local produce. Seven seasons later, their PoP Club now reaches approximately 1,000 children each season.
“Our favorite moment is when a parent tells us that their kids tried something that they have never eaten before or that they so look forward to their Saturday morning trip to the market that they do not let the parent off the hook for getting them there,” says Renae Hesselink, Muskegon Farmers Market Manager.
Each week at the market, kids enrolled in the PoP Club participate in family friendly activities – such as kids yoga or farmers market bingo – to receive their $2 token. The market partners with local organizations (such as the Muskegon Art Museum and the local school district) to run the activities to help create more community connections for the kids and parents. When the season ends, kids with near perfect attendance get a certificate and a prize, like a gift certificate for a class at Kitchen 242.
“There is nothing more encouraging than seeing so many excited kids going through the market on Saturday mornings with their Kids Power of Produce reusable market bags, eager to make their produce purchases,” Hesselink says.
Want to find a PoP Club in your area? The Lincoln Park Farmers Market, Dearborn Farmers Market, City of East Lansing Farmers Market, Farmington Farmers Market, and many others participate in the program. Call your local farmers markets for more information or to encourage them to start a club!
Kelly Wilson, RDN is Taste the Local Difference’s Director of Community Partners.
Jimmy Smith is a Dietetic Intern at Grand Valley State University.