Kid’s farmers market promotes healthy eating

Taylor Sinclair

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Jena Roof, a nutrition major, gives students vegetables at Central Middle School in Oroville Friday. Photo credit: John Domogma

It’s a Friday afternoon. School has been let out and before boarding the bus, excited and energetic students walk into the Central Middle School gym in Oroville.

Once they arrive at the gym, they are provided with ten dollars of green paper play money and a reusable Home Depot bag so they can buy potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, onions and other fresh produce to take home.

Chico State’s Center for Nutrition and Activity Promotion has been putting on a weekly farmers market for the students of Central Middle School since May 2014.

Alyson Wylie, one of the Center for Nutrition and Activity Promotion’s supervisors, said the vision is to help create healthy and livable communities.

“We have created a student-focused farmers market to teach them about the benefits of selecting fresh fruits and veggies,” Wylie said. “(It’s) a very important learning experience, given all the the fast food advertising competing for their attention.”

Nearly 200 students show up to each farmers market. The Food Bank donates one ton of food for each farmers market and any leftover food is donated to shelters.

The Center for Nutrition and Activity Promotion is a research organization on campus and has been around for nine years. Macy Fitch, a senior nutrition management major, got started in the organization as an intern and is now a paid staff member.

Fitch said watching the kids walking away with 10 pounds of free produce is the most rewarding part of her job.

“The kids get really excited about particular fruits or vegetables,” she said.

Oroville is considered a low-income and low-access community, according to USDA.gov, meaning that most residents live farther than one mile away from a market or grocery store.

Maifeng Yang, a junior nutrition communication major, went to Central Middle School and knows how hard it is to come across fresh produce.

“Going to school here, we are always surrounded by fast food chains,” Yang said. “There are no grocery stores here. I just think it is a really great opportunity for kids to indulge themselves in farmers and introduce themselves to food.”

At one table in the gym, students could write down recipes they wanted to make with the produce they were taking home. Aryannah Henderson, 12, shared what her mom cooked the previous week with some yummy vegetables she picked up.

“The day after the farmers market last week, my mom made mashed potatoes and stuffed red peppers,” Henderson said.

Mariah Graham, a senior nutrition communications major and intern with The Center for Nutrition and Activity Promotion, said some kids get excited about certain fruits and vegetables, including one student who was thrilled to take home pears.

“Last week, it was really cool, because I was working the pear section and there was this one kid who was so excited he finally got to eat pears because he doesn’t usually get them at his house,” Graham said. “So with his fake money, he bought 20 pears to take home to his family.”

Central Middle School’s students were also allowed to volunteer and help distribute food. This included Linda Vang, 13.

She said she likes helping out because all the vegetables are free and it is a fun activity to be a part of.

Yang said that being involved in the farmers market is important and it can benefit the future generation.

“I see how health and nutrition can be a negative part of this side if you’re not exposing yourself to these kinds of things,” Yang said. “I just feel like by being a part of it we can help improve the kids, teaching them to eat healthier and be more active, which could really benefit the future generation.”

Taylor Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or @TaySinclair17 on Twitter.

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