Food Hero at the Farmers Market expands youth access to healthy food

Children plant snap pea seeds at a farmers market.

Food Hero at the Farmers Market started in Douglas County in 2017 through a FEAST (Food, Education, Agriculture, Solutions, Together) grant from the Oregon Food Bank. One of the goals of the program is to provide children the ability to choose their own produce from the market. At the Food Hero at the Farmers Market booth, children can earn stamps on a Food Hero passport by tasting fruits and vegetables in fun ways and receiving recipes to take home. When the children participate, they receive a voucher to spend at the market on fruits and vegetables of their choice.

Food Hero is a statewide initiative of the Oregon Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) program and was developed by the Oregon State University Extension Service in English and Spanish. SNAP-Ed rationale supports the Food Hero at the Farmers Market model because increasing youths’ exposure to healthy food increases the likelihood that they will increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables.

In 2020 and 2021, Food Hero at the Market was only offered at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market in Roseburg. In 2022, the Canyonville Farmers Market added the program back for the summer. To increase access to the program, Extension SNAP-Ed in Douglas County worked with Riddle Elementary School to bus students attending summer school to the Canyonville Farmers Market. Each week, Riddle Elementary School transported about 70-80 students to the market to participate in the program. On average, there was an increase in participation in the market from 25 in 2018 to 75 in 2022.

Participants for the summer of 2022 for both markets totaled 2,454 – an increase from 1,509 in 2021. A survey conducted with youths during one week of the program showed 60 of 64 “liked” or “loved” the program. An unintended benefit of this program was providing additional revenue to vendors through the vouchers used by youths and produce purchased to make cooking kits. Over the program duration the vendors received $6,386.40 in the form of produce purchases for the program.