In 2017, Maine SNAP-Ed and the Sanford Farmers’ Market created a Power of Produce (POP) Club. The program encourages York County kids to engage in the local food system and eat more fruits and vegetables from neighboring farms. POP Club is a farmers market model used across the nation. It is designed to teach youth and adults about the importance of healthy eating. Children in K-8th grade who participate in the Sanford Farmers’ Market club receive $2 tokens. These tokens are used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. The tokens empower kids to select fruits and vegetables they would like to try. They are encouraged to have conversations with farmers as they shop. POP Club also provides
- nutrition education games
- tasting opportunities
- food demonstrations
In 2018, the Sanford POP Club reached 175 youth during of the market season. The program is ongoing. The program promotes the local farmers market experience to children and their families every week, May-November.
In the United States, only 1 in 10 children eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. One third of children are overweight or obese. Maine is one of the most obese states in the nation. In Maine 41% of children are overweight or obese. When families have difficulty accessing healthy food because of cost and availability, children could be at a greater risk for obesity and diet-related diseases such as diabetes.
In 2017, the Sanford Farmers’ Market manager learned about POP Club from a Minnesota farmers market.
The program had experienced an increase in:
- kids eating fruits and vegetables
- people attending the market.
With the help of Maine SNAP-Ed, the program was piloted in Maine. To launch POP Club, the market manager raised $1,300 in community donations. He created the wooden tokens on his farm. That first year, 349 POP tokens were distributed to 139 kids in K-8th grade.
A survey of program participants found
- 85% of parents reported that they are attending the farmers market more often because of the POP Club
- 100% of surveyed children enjoyed the intervention
- Favorite foods included cucumbers, cherries, tomatoes, and apples.
The Maine SNAP-Ed Nutrition Educator develops a weekly market calendar that provides educational programming for the entire market season. Typical youth activities are produce scavenger hunts. Activities also include games such as “Guess the Fruit or Veggie” or “Herb Tasting.” After participating in POP Club, two-thirds of the parents report that their children are more excited to try new fruits and vegetables.
The Sanford POP Club is now in its third season. There have been some challenges along the way. Challenges include difficulty of raising funds to cover the tokens for the full market season. The Maine SNAP-Ed Nutrition Educator helps support fundraising efforts by highlighting program successes. The Educator is actively involved in recruiting volunteers to help sustain the program. As the intervention takes root in the community, market support has continued and grown. In 2019, information booth attendants employed by the market started giving out the POP Club tokens. They also began providing information about the club. This made it more convenient for families as they enter the market. Maine SNAP-Ed has provided guidelines, resources, and signage to ensure the club can be maintained by volunteers and market staff. The Nutrition Educator promotes POP Club during youth and adult direct education classes in the York County area. The partnership continues to flourish. The program allows youth to connect with their local farmers and experience the power of fresh fruits and vegetables.
“It really motivated us to come to the market: the kids loved it and reminded me on Saturday!”
For more Success Stories from the Maine SNAP-Ed program or to get in touch with your local Nutrition Educator, please visit www.mainesnap-ed.org.
Data sources are available upon request by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This institution is an equal opportunity provider. Maine SNAP-Ed is funded by the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which is administered by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and implemented statewide by the University of New England (UNE) through contracts with local community coalitions. Maine SNAP-Ed educates low-income families on low-cost healthy eating and active lifestyles.