MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. — We can inspire curiosity and empower even the pickiest eaters to fill their plate with more fruits and vegetables by exposing children to farm-fresh local produce, teaching them how to prepare it themselves, and giving them the freedom to shop for it at their very own farmer’s market.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance and Education Program (SNAP-Ed NY) introduced a new addition to their interactive nutrition education sessions called “Market Sprouts” incorporating interactive nutrition education, cooking, and a farmer’s market shopping experience that allows kids to select ingredients to recreate recipes at home with their families.
SNAP-Ed NY of the Hudson Valley, the Middletown Enlarged City School District, Sycamore Farms, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orange County’s 4-H and Master Gardening programs collaborated to bring Market Sprouts to life for elementary and middle school aged children at the Presidential Park Elementary School this summer. The students learned about nutrition and food culture, prepared healthy recipes daily, toured Sycamore Farm to discover how local food is grown, engaged with gardeners, and discussed how food waste can be used to enrich the environment.
Students of all ages were excited to roll up their sleeves and cook each day. SNAP-Ed Nutritionists introduced many familiar and some new fruits and vegetables, discussed the health benefits, and shared culinary tips about each recipe. Safe knife practices and other cooking skills were developed as recipes included ingredients from every food group. The Middletown Enlarged City School District Food Service Department provided all of the ingredients that allowed each student to prepare every recipe individually. The Food Service Department also lead an exciting and educational scavenger hunt to help teach the students about different foods they may or may not be familiar with.
“The Nutrition Scavenger Hunt offered a unique engagement opportunity for our scholars to learn about a variety of fruits and vegetables. They enjoyed learning interesting facts in a fun and interactive way and identifying the different fruits and vegetables in a fun and interactive way,” shared Lauren Burr, Assistant Director of Food Service for the Middletown School District.
Each group of students experienced an exciting field trip courtesy of Kevin Smith, owner and head farmer of Sycamore Farms in Middletown, N.Y., who gave a tour of the land and shared his passion and knowledge about how local produce is grown, allowing the students to sample fresh peaches from the orchard and cherry tomatoes from the greenhouse (some for the very first time!).
“Being able to show kids where their food comes from is a rewarding experience that’s important to help create connection and understanding when it comes to food choices,” said Smith.
The program culminated when their classroom was suddenly transformed into a Market Sprouts farmer’s market stocked with the produce from Sycamore Farms the students had seen growing in the fields, including juicy peaches, fresh tomatoes, patchwork peppers, eggplants, and more. Students each received a budget of $15 Market Sprouts Bucks they could “spend” at the market to purchase produce. By this time, the students had experienced cooking with the produce and had recipes to take home to recreate with their families using their market selections. Students also had the opportunity to discuss managing their market budget, working the market cash register, and the financial literacy components associated with those tasks.
“Giving kids freedom to explore food in their own terms, from the farm to the kitchen to the market makes it so much more likely they will eat healthy foods. They were so excited to choose their own foods at the market and be able to show their families that they can make the recipes themselves. It’s amazing to see them light up about something that’s going to help them be the strongest, most energetic version of themselves,” shared Erica Dahl, SNAP-Ed NY Nutrition Educator.
SNAP-Ed NY went on to offer a modified one-hour version of the “Market Sprouts” program throughout the weekend of the Country Fair in Otisville. This time, the collaboration was between SNAP-Ed NY of the Hudson Valley and Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County’s Gleaning Program who worked with local farms to gather produce secured through Nourish NY funding to create a pop-up market pantry. Farms who participated in this include Dagele Brothers, Freedom Farm Community, Modern Produce, S&SO Produce, Soons Orchard, and Sycamore Farms. Participants during the Fair included all ages of youth who learned about nutrition, worked together to make Peach Salsa, and earned “Market Sprout Bucks” to choose their own produce to take home. Many participants and parents or caregivers enjoyed the program and also received information about SNAP, SNAP-Ed, local farmer’s markets, and food pantries.
If you are interested in learning more about SNAP-Ed NY in the Hudson Valley, contact us at 845-344-1234 or email email@example.com. You can also find recipes and tips to save time, save money, and eat healthy at www.snapedny.org.
SNAP-Ed is funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. Cornell Cooperative Extension is an employer and educator recognized for valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and Individuals with Disabilities and provides equal program and employment opportunities. For more information call Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County at 845-344-1234 or visit the SNAP-Ed NY website at www.snapedny.org.
–Jenna Ricker, SNAP-Ed NY