What can you do when you can’t bring the kids to the farmers market for a field trip? You bring the field trip to the kids! With the support of a grant through the Walmart Foundation, University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Brevard County Extension 4-H Youth Development built a “Tiny Market” to teach youth around the county about healthy food choices.
The Tiny Market is portable and allows UF/IFAS to reach more youth in the county at a more cost-effective price tag then offsite field trips. It is a downsized farmers market that sits on the base of a trailer and was constructed by a local contracting company out of wood. It has pull down open air windows that hold produce on both sides.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) medical costs for obese adults total 147 billion dollars. The CDC also states that about 14% of Florida’s adolescents are considered overweight, and 10% are classified as obese(1). Adequate fruit and vegetable consumption is necessary to ensure that adolescents are meeting their dietary requirements while assisting in combatting obesity. To date, adolescents are not eating enough fruits or vegetables, and these trends may continue into adulthood. Farmers markets provide access to fresh, local, in season produce. By exposing youth to farmers’ markets at a young age, they become more familiar with fruits and vegetables and the local resources that are available to them. This, in turn, will allow them to mature in adults who are familiar with local markets and opportunities to obtain fresh produce. As a farmers market on wheels, The Tiny Market, can also reach food deserts and other areas where fresh produce is not available.
Debuting this past summer, The Tiny Market visited 10 sites and reached over 1150 students. The Tiny Market encompassed six hours of 4-H programming for youth, including educational components before and after the market visited. Youth learned about local agriculture through hands on activities. They created beeswax candles, sampled fresh honey, and played produce bingo. They also went on a scavenger hunt to discover new and exciting fruits and vegetable and went "shopping" at the market to choose a fruit or vegetable to bring home and try with their family. After visiting The Tiny Market, students got to prepare a healthy snack using fresh produce.
Upon conclusion of The Tiny Market visit, youth were asked to reflect upon what they learned and how they intend to change their healthy living behaviors. Youth replied that they enjoyed trying new fruits and vegetables and didn’t know what some of the samples they saw were until they saw them at The Tiny Market.
The Tiny Market is booking sites for the next season, with the promise of more opportunities to reach youth and their families to teach about preparing healthy snacks and making wiser choices. UF/IFAS Extension 4-H provide hands-on, multidimensional approaches to combatting obesity. The Tiny Market is just one facet of what Extension has to offer.
Vanessa Spero-Swingle, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Brevard County Extension
CDC, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. Florida State Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Profile.