There are many families in San Luis Obispo County who lack adequate access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
The Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County (SLO Food Bank) set out to help. SLO Food Bank started the “Children’s Farmers Market Program”. This program gives locally grown donated produce to children from low-income families.
A farmers market for children
The vision was to create an environment much like a Farmers Market, allowing children to select from a variety of fruits and vegetables to take home to share with their families. SLO Food Bank introduced “Food Bank Bucks”, which serve as play money, to simulate a shopping experience.
Nutrition Educators teach children the benefit of choosing healthy foods from local farmers and provide recipe samples for children attending the markets. Students can learn at an early age the benefits of a nutritious diet and share this information with their families.
The amount of positive feedback received from families, school staff and administrators, and students has been overwhelming. Parents report that children are more willing to try new fruits and vegetables and that their children show increased interest in cooking or food preparation at home.
Two thousand children served
The SLO Food Bank Children's Farmers Market Program has been highly successful. It
- Provides children and their families with nutritious food
- Improves the school and home environments
- Reduces agricultural waste
- Reinforces health education messages
The program has grown considerably since it was first introduced in 2014. In its first full year of full operation, the Children’s Farmers Markets served approximately 1235 children at 111 school sites and events throughout the county.
In 2016, SLO Food Bank held 19 Children’s Farmers Market sites on a set monthly basis spanning over the course of the school calendar year. They held 197 total markets that served an estimated 2287 children. The children were enrolled in after school and summer school programs.
SLO Food Bank will continue to develop and grow this program in their mission to alleviate hunger and build a healthier community.
This article was written and submitted by the California Department of Public Health, a SNAP-Ed Implementing Agency. For more information, please contact Melissa Danehey or (805) 238-4664.