Thanks to a new University of Virginia-sponsored program, children who visit the Charlottesville City Market on any Saturday morning through Oct. 13 can get a free $2 in “Fun Bucks” to spend on any fruits and vegetables they want.
The Power of Produce, or POP, program launched last Saturday, and more than 30 children used their Fun Bucks to buy apples, broccoli, pears, squash and other produce.
Almost all of the children also participated in the “Two-Bite Club” by trying at least two bites of the weekly featured vegetable – sweet peppers. They could choose from red, yellow, green or purple peppers.
“Giving the children the power to choose a produce item gets them excited about preparing and eating it,” said team member Kate Breimann, a third-year political philosophy, policy and law major in the College of Arts & Sciences.
Last year, the same team conducted the first-ever rigorous survey research on the Charlottesville City Market and its shoppers.
Building on that research, the team hopes to increase the diversity of market-goers and “get kids excited about local food, fresh food and healthy eating,” said Natalie Roper, a fourth-year government major who has been on the team for more than two years.
Children ages 5 through 12 can participate in the program any Saturday, from 9 to 11:30 a.m., through Oct. 13. In addition to the Fun Bucks and the Two-Bite Club, POP also offers face painting and teaches kids about nutrition, agriculture and cooking, sometimes with cooking demonstrations.
A parent or guardian must provide a signed consent form. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This effort to foster healthy eating habits is modeled after the Power of Produce program at the Oregon City Farmers Market, Roper said.
She added, “People in our society have become detached from food production and agriculture. We hope this program will encourage healthier eating habits, open up a dialogue about nutrition, teach children about different types of produce, and ultimately pique their curiosity about where their food comes from.”
The U.Va. team supports the Charlottesville City Market in partnership with Market Central, a nonprofit advocate for the City Market.