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Holly and Harvey Hickman use tokens through the Kids Market @ The Store program being donated through the West Virginia University Extension Service to buy fresh produce at Ward’s Farm Market on Seventh Street in Parkersburg. (Photo Provided)

PARKERSBURG — Kids are learning the value of eating fruits and vegetables through a program through the WVU Extension Service as they are able to shop for produce locally.

The Kids Market @ The Store program was created by the WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program and it allows kids to shop free for fruits and vegetables at participating retail locations in their counties, said Shaley Hughes, Health Educator with the WVU Extension Service.

The program, which runs from July 5 to Aug. 16, is funded by multiple sources including Parkersburg Area Community Foundation, Coplin Clinic and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The program is open to families with kids ages 2-17.

Each of the participating families is given $30 in tokens to spend and each child in each family gets a market bag and a passport (provided by funding through the Extension Service) as well as a “I Love Vegetables” book.

“The kids go into the store and they get to spend their tokens on produce that comes from local farmers,” Hughes said. “They are able to pick it out themselves.

Holly Hickman looks over produce available at Ward’s Farm Market on Seventh Street in Parkersburg. She is participating in the Kids Market @ The Store program being done through the West Virginia University Extension Service. The program teaches kids about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables and teaching them about buying produce at the store. (Photo Provided)

“The idea is to get them excited about it and to make healthy choices and to make it realistic in shopping at a market.”

There are 315 families participating in the program in Wood County. The places participating are Ward’s Farm Market on Seventh Street and Save-A-Lot on Broadway Avenue.

The program is to get kids and their families to think about eating produce regularly and it helps them to be able to make those choices on their own.

“Often kids will eat what their parents eat,” Hughes said. “This gives them the opportunity to choose their own (fruits and vegetables) and gives them the opportunity to try something they might not otherwise try.

“It also gives them buying power.”

Holly and Harvey Hickman are looking through produce at Ward’s Farmers Market on Seventh Street in Parkersburg. They are participating in the Kids Market @ The Store program being done through the West Virginia University Extension Service. The program teaches kids about eating healthier and about buying produce at the store. (Photo Provided)

The program helps not only feed the families, but is also educating families about the benefits of the fruits and vegetables. The program also features recipe cards and cooking demonstrations for the recipes.

The retail stores will choose the kinds of produce they will make available, but Hughes said it will be a lot of typical types including tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, zucchini, apples, broccoli, plums and more.

“The people at the stores have been really helpful and taking a lot of this on themselves,” Hughes said.

Nationally, West Virginia has the third highest rate of obesity in children right now.

The program was a pilot program last year. During the school year it offered a number of pop-up farmers markets at area schools. During the summer, it is not around to interact with the kids in that way.

Holly and Harvey Hickman are looking through produce at Ward’s Farmers Market on Seventh Street in Parkersburg. They are participating in the Kids Market @ The Store program being done through the West Virginia University Extension Service. The program teaches kids about eating healthier and about buying produce at the store. (Photo Provided)

“We wanted to fill in the gap during the summer months and to get them to continue to try new things,” Hughes said. “It was open to everyone as there was no income requirement.

“The idea of ​​healthy eating, we need to instill that with everyone.”

Brett Dunlap can be reached at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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