Worthington Farmers Market programs encourage product purchases

New to the market this year is Power of Produce Plus. Any adult 60 or older can stop by the PoP Plus table on Tuesdays at the farmer’s market to pick up a free $ 4 token that can be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from local producers.

“There is nothing you have to do to qualify,” said Claire Henning, health educator and coordinator of the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership with Nobles County.

She asks people she talks to a few questions, often starting with, “Do you know anyone over 60? To avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. Then, she will ask them for their name, zip code and “age” – rather than asking for specific ages – as well as how many years they have been shopping at the farmers’ market.

Respondents are then given a wooden token that they can redeem for $ 4 worth of produce with almost any vendor, either on Tuesday or at the Saturday farmer’s market. Sellers return tokens weekly and are refunded at the end of the month.

“We have vendors who work well with the program,” Henning said. Some of them started asking buyers if they had received their tokens and then referring customers to Henning.

Funds for the project came from a $ 5,000 grant from the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging, through funding for coronavirus aid, relief and economic security. Henning said she hopes to allocate all the grant money for the products, but the funds must be used by the end of September. So far, the program has paid $ 1,500 in produce for Farmer’s Market customers.

The PoP Plus program is a kind of spin-off of the Power of Produce Club program introduced in Worthington in 2019.

After a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the PoP program is returning to Worthington Farmers Market this year as well, offering children in grades two to six $ 2 tokens so they can choose their own. own fresh produce.

“The kids really love this, they can choose theirs,” said Letty Rodriguez, an educator with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at the University of Minnesota. “When families came to the market, what better way to introduce or involve them in buying fruit and vegetables than by giving them a small token? “

Before the advent of COVID-19, children too young to receive the token instead participated in an age-appropriate activity with Rodriguez. Now they will receive a booklet or activity to take home, she said.

Rodriguez has already handed out 58 tokens, which means the kids in the area have already brought home $ 116 worth of peppers, potatoes, onions, watermelons or any other seasonal produce and eye-catching enough for a child to have it. please.

“We just want them to eat more fruits and vegetables,” Rodriguez said.

Studies have shown that the more involved children are in the food preparation process, the more likely they are to eat the food, she added, and even a 2-year-old can participate in simple tasks like tearing up the food. lettuce.

“It’s so special to them,” Rodriguez said. “And there are studies that (show), if you eat as a family, that’s important too.”

The program, a collaboration between the University of Minnesota Extension and local groups including Nobles County 4-H and Nobles County Girl Scouts, aims to increase family participation and provider incomes on farmers’ markets, as well as building healthier communities, according to the PoP Club. website.

Funds for the PoP Club come from local donors, with a total of $ 800 raised in 2019. About $ 300 or $ 400 remains to be used this year.

Rodriguez intends to seek donations and grants so that the program can continue into the next year. Anyone interested in donating to the program should send checks or cash to the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, 1121 Third Ave.

Much like PoP Plus tokens for those 60 and over, PoP tokens for children in grades two to six are available at the Tuesday Farmer’s Market in Worthington, but can also be used at the Saturday Farmer’s Market.

For more information, visit extension.umn.edu/local-foods/power-produce-pop-club.

Another farmer-market return program for its sixth season is Market Bucks, which allows individuals enrolled in the federal SNAP food assistance program to maximize their benefits by matching them dollar for dollar, up to $ 10.

“A partnership between Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council (SMOC) and Community Wellness Partners through Nobles County Public Health helped bring the Market Bucks program to the Worthington Farmers Market in 2016,” said Christine Bullerman, program coordinator.

Market Bucks is funded through statutory funding through Hunger Solutions Minnesota, which advances large-scale hunger relief programs and advocates for action for food security in Minnesota, Bullerman said , Community Programs Specialist at Sanford Worthington Medical Center.

“We are not asking for a grant to cover the costs. Hunger Solutions will literally refund us no matter how many Market Bucks are returned, no matter how much the refund is, ”she added.

SNAP-registered buyers can use their electronic benefit transfer cards to purchase any SNAP-eligible food at the market, including fresh fruits and vegetables as well as honey, jams, jellies, pickles, baked goods, eggs, fish, meat and dairy products.

In 2020, $ 184,365 Market Bucks were spent in cities across Minnesota, including the Worthington, Luverne, and Pipestone Farmers’ Markets.

“The sellers return their tokens and their collected market dollars at the end of each market night, we count them and pay them back once a month,” Bullerman said. “It’s a win-win solution for our EBT customers and our suppliers in the market. “

She is always looking for volunteers to help with Market Bucks, and anyone interested should call her at 507-227-2917.

Tokens for all three programs are only available at the Tuesday Farmer’s Market, although they can also be spent at the Saturday markets.

The Worthington Farmers Market is open from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday and 7 a.m. to noon on Saturday in the ACE Hardware parking lot.

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