Let them eat vegetables

Jul. 26, 2014 @ 12:44 PM

At the South Durham Farmers’ Market, it’s a pleasure to see our youngest shoppers excited about local fruits and vegetables. And, we hope that their experience at the farmers’ market helps to instill lifelong healthy eating habits and a dedication to supporting local agriculture. To encourage this connection and with the help of many in the community, we have created the Children’s Corner at the market.

This past spring, the Durham County Department of Public Health donated to the SDFM a tent with three canvas walls and a children’s table set. And to help us create a special place at the market for kids, the local Kidzu Museum painted a farm mural on the three walls featuring various fruits, vegetables and a barn (with a rooster, of course).

The mural was designed by Marcia Blackstock, a Makery Fellow at the Kidzu Museum who led children in painting the design with vegetables. Instead of paint brushes, the kids used green peppers, broccoli, potatoes, celery and okra, which I learned makes a great flower-shaped stamp.  The Kidzu Museum, which will be closed until mid-November for its relocation within University Mall, has long been dedicated to engaging the local food community through teaching kids how to grow their own food and how to shop the farmers’ market.

This is an especially important time to be instilling in children the importance of making smart food choices. In North Carolina, over 30 percent of children ages 2 to 5 are overweight or obese.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90.9 percent of children in our state fail to consume even three servings of vegetables a day.

At the Children’s Corner, the market intern, Haniah Lerner, and I plan educational activities meant to make vegetables and the market fun. Last week, kids at the market painted with local pepper stamps, and this weekend, our young shoppers selected and prepared vegetables for a stone salad. In order to expand our children’s programming, we certainly welcome partnerships with local organizations committed to promoting healthy eating.

Of course, in order for children to make healthy eating choices, they first need to have access. Over 55 percent of the households receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) have at least one child, and this past year, households receiving SNAP saw their benefits significantly reduced.  To make local produce more affordable, we are operating a Double Bucks program. This program matches the first $10 spent by individuals shopping with their SNAP benefits.

If you are interested in volunteering at the Children’s Corner or at our SNAP table, we are always looking for more volunteers to help us better the serve the South Durham community.

Elizabeth Zander is market manager for the South Durham Farmers’ Market, open 8 a.m.to  noon each Saturday and 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. each Wednesday at Greenwood Commons Shopping Center, 5410 NC Highway 55.