Schoolchildren learn about good eating at Eastern Market

September 12, 2013
Source: Detroit Free Press
Author: Sue Selasky

While walking around Eastern Market on Tuesday, the scene was buzzing with folks buying mighty fine looking fruits and vegetables. From baskets brimming with big tomatoes to some of the season’s first apples and giant heads of broccoli, everything looked great.

But one of the best things I saw that day was a group of children getting excited to learn about the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Thanks to several local organizations, the kids learned about shopping at the market and identifying locally grown produce, and were encouraged to talk to the farmers.


Jaime Vega, Chris Bustamante and Emilio Avina buy produce from Fusilier Farms.
Susan M. Selasky/Detroit Free Press

The kids, a group of about 25 fourth-graders from the Detroit Public Schools’ Academy of the Americas in southwest Detroit, were at the market for the kickoff of the Meet Up and Eat Up with the Lions weekly series. This is the second year for the program held Tuesdays through Oct. 22 at Shed 5. The goal: to educate DPS students about making healthy eating and lifestyle choices.

From a food writer’s perspective it’s encouraging to see such efforts devoted to teaching kids healthy eating habits at a young age. And it’s encouraging to see the kids excited about a cornucopia of vegetables.

Each week, kids in different grades and from different schools will have a chance to meet a Detroit Lion alum and experience shopping at Eastern Market. On Tuesday, they got to meet Lomas Brown, former Lions tackle and pro bowler, who signed the kids’ shirts and walked the market with them.

Part of the program gets kids moving by taking part in group recess activities.

Liz Kohn of the Ann Arbor-based Fair Food Network, one of the groups sponsoring the program, talked to the students about the organization’s Double Up Food Bucks program and coached the kids on what local produce they might find at the market. The Double Up Food Bucks program allows people in food assistance programs to receive a dollar-for-dollar match up to $20 spent on fruits and vegetables at the market.

“We know a high percentage of students receive food aid,” Kohn said.

Kohn said Eastern Market has the biggest redemption rate for Double Up Food Bucks.

Armed with tote bags and Double Up Food Bucks tokens, the kids marched on to Shed 2 to ask farmers questions and buy Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables of their choosing. After that it was back to Shed 5 for lunch and a cooking demo about making healthier snacks with Ford Field’s executive chef Joe Nader.

“What better way to teach them the experience of shopping and buying locally,” said Betti Wiggins, executive director of the Detroit Public Schools’ Office of School Nutrition. “It’s an opportunity to grow the kids.”

The Michigan-grown fruit and vegetables the kids buy, they take home with them, Wiggins explains, and the parents will have to cook with it.

“That’s how you change the culture,” she said.

In case you didn’t know, Eastern Market has a Tuesday market in Shed 2 open 9 a.m-3 p.m. through Oct. 29. If you work downtown, it’s well worth it to take a lunch break and hop on over to the market.

First published at Detroit Free Press on September 12, 2013. Have a question? Contact Susan M. Selasky noon-3 p.m. Thursdays at 313-222-6432 or e-mail sselasky@freepress.com. Follow her @SusanMariecooks on Twitter.