Kids Farmers’ Market begins new year

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By CATHLEEN OLSON/Winters School District

With smiles from all involved, festive decorations handmade by principal Greg Moffitt, and more volunteers than ever before, the Kids Farmers’ Market successfully launched into its fifth season this past Tuesday at Waggoner Elementary School.

The market, which serves over 170 students per week, is a place where good things happen. Our elementary school children receive healthy foods they can prepare at home with their families; high school students involved in the Student Cross-Age Tutoring Program sharpen their skills in working with younger children; Waggoner School student volunteers learn leadership skills; and volunteers of all ages feel the satisfaction of helping others.

The Kids Farmers’ Market is a collaborative effort involving the Yolo Food Bank, the Winters School District and Winters Farm to School. The Yolo Food Bank provides the food for the Market, much of which is grown by Yolo County farmers.  For last Tuesday’s Market, the children received over 10 pounds of fresh apples, carrots, onions, pears and plums. For some families, that extra food provides much needed nourishment for the week.

The school district pitches in by providing the space for the market, as well as help from the district food services staff in running the market. New to the market this year, Moffitt and director of food services, Cathy Olsen, plan to have student activities at every market. The belief is that for students to have the opportunity to achieve personal, academic, developmental and social success, the district needs to create positive, safe and health-promoting environments at every level, in every setting, throughout the school year. The Kids Farmer’s Market achieves these goals by being a great venue for promoting nutrition and health.

Winters Farm to School provides the funds to hire a Kids Farmer’s Market coordinator. That person makes certain that the market runs smoothly — from unloading the food from the Yolo Food Bank truck, setting up, managing volunteers and cleaning up. Members of the Winters Farm to School board also volunteer at every market, helping with whatever needs to be done.

Several times during the school year, registered dieticians from the Yolo Food Bank staff or Yolo County Department of Health staff come to the market to gather information. At Tuesday’s market, Food Bank staff set up a short survey asking kids if they liked to cook and whether or not they liked fruits and vegetables.

Throughout the year, more surveys will be conducted to see if there is a positive impact on students’ diets by having the Market. The children who participate in the market do learn a lot about choosing healthier foods for themselves and their families. Some parents have reported that their children now ask them to purchase the same fruits and vegetables that they try for the first time at the market.

What really makes the Kids Farmers’ Market hum, though, is the positive and fun way that everyone, from volunteers to students to staff, works together. It truly is a group effort where everyone’s participation is needed and appreciated. Thirty volunteers showed up for last Tuesday’s market. That was a record: 13 Japanese exchange students from UC Davis, eight Winters High School students, six Waggoner second and third graders, and parents and community volunteers. From week to week, the volunteers change. What stays the same, though, is the goodwill that is generated every week.

The Kids Farmers’ Market will continue throughout the school year. Anyone interested in volunteering for the market can contact Cathy Olsen, 795-6109.

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