Travel is difficult right now. But kids in Wirt County will soon receive a “passport” to explore locally grown fruits and vegetables.
It’s all part of Kids Market @ The Store, a free program from the WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program supported by the Sisters Health Foundation.
Kids receive a reusable shopping bag and a passport. If they present that passport at a participating store, they will receive fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers.
The program kicks off on Thursday, October 14 and is open to Wirt County kids aged 4 – 17. Parents can sign up by filling out this survey. Three stores in the county will participate: Crossroads General Store in Walker, Piggly Wiggly in Elizabeth and Two Lick Tiny Grocery in Palestine.
Kids Market @ The Store is already a proven success, having recently wrapped up a six-week run in neighboring Calhoun County.
The program was available in six stores throughout the county. That included the Outdoor Store in Arnoldsburg.
When kids would come in and get the free produce, Outdoor Store manager Graham Knight would place a sticker in their passport.
“The kids were very excited to see the produce,” Knight said. “Every week I had a lot of the same people coming in. They would come in and their kids would be happy to see it.”
Christine Jarvis, manager of the Mini Mart in Chloe, saw that same excitement in her store. One young participant, who Jarvis estimates was around 4 years old, came into the store each week with her mom and grandmother.
“One day they came down and she told them they needed to stay in the car, because she could do her own shopping. She didn’t need mom’s help,” she said.
The mom and grandmother didn’t oblige this request, of course.
Jarvis’s own 9-year-old granddaughter, Alexandria, participated in the pilot project and enjoyed it.
“She tried a bunch of new stuff,” Jarvis said. “She tried squash and zucchini, which she never had. She didn’t like the squash but she loved zucchini.”
This is the idea behind Kids Market @ The Store.
“We have found that, if you let kids choose their own fruits and vegetables, they are more likely to eat them,” WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program Specialist and Assistant Professor Kristin McCartney said. “This program both gives them that power while also removing any financial barriers for their parents.”
Neither the Mini Mart in Chloe or the Outdoor Store in Arnoldsburg usually carry fresh fruits and vegetables. But they said demand was high for the free produce provided by Kids Market @ The Store.
And even though the fruits and vegetables were free, Knight said the program actually generated some business at his store.
“The kids would be going through the produce and the parents would go ahead and get different odds and ends they need in the store,” Knight said. “I wasn’t expecting that to happen.”
McCartney said it’s a new way to look at retail.
“Almost every store has candy bars, salty snacks and soda at the checkout, because retailers know that shoppers are susceptible to impulse buys,” she said. “Kids Market @ The Store is using those same impulses to promote healthy food.”
WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program’s work is supported by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
CONTACT: Zack Harold
WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program
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