On Saturday the Family Nutrition Program of the Virginia Cooperative Exentsion office offered a class at the Culpeper Downtown Farmers Market where kids could be creative and get a healthy snack at the same time.

The “I’m SOW healthy” event allowed kids to build a structure for themselves out of grapes, cheese blocks and toothpicks to test their engineering skills.

It wasn’t the extension’s first event at the farmers market. The program began May 4 with the “Garden in a Glove” class, and another on June 1 called “Binary Code Snack Necklaces.” The series continues on August 3 with “Pancake Picassos,” and “Apple Pie in a Cup” on September 7.

In the event on May 4, kids were asked to plant seeds into a glove filled with soil. Once the seeds sprouted, they could then replant them into the ground or a pot. Georgette Yates-Mosley, the program assistant at Virginia Cooperative Extension, assisted children at the event—including her own two sons, who now have a variety of vegetables growing in their garden, including watermelons, tomatoes and pumpkins.

For the “Binary Code Snack Necklaces” event, kids were challenged to spell their own initials using binary code, and used pieces of cereal to spell out their names.

Every year, Mosley comes up with a different theme for the program. This year the program’s events are based on the educational framework STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), with each event drawing from a category from the framework.

The “I’m SOW Healthy” event on Saturday focused on engineering. The event held on June 1 focused on teaching kids about technology and the May 4 one showed them science in action through the seeds growing.

The program aims to teach kids about nutrition while giving them enjoy healthy food.

“A positive relationship with food is our overall goal and just kind of letting them touch it and taste it and play with it as a different angle,” Mosley said. “It just kind of helps them to ease into trying different things, especially fruits and vegetables. Of course the farmers market the perfect place [for that].”

The event started six years ago. A garden club Mosely was in offered a similar program for kids. One of Mosley’s friends in the club pointed out that the market would be a good place for such an activity, and Mosley agreed. Through the extension office, Mosley secured a grant for the program that pays for all the food they use.

The market isn’t the only place Mosley offers events like this. She also visits schools during the school year to show kids the importance of healthy eating.

Eleven-year-old Abbey Chiles attended the farmers market with her siblings and mother. She made two structures at the booth, a robot and a camera.

She talked with Mosley enthusiastically while she worked about her siblings and family, and about what she was making, often stopping to show Mosley or someone else her work and how it operated.

She had fun making her edible creations. “I like creating things,” she said. “What I like the most about doing stuff is that you can make something really creative and then you can eat it afterwards.”

Taylor Muller and Karliyah Melvin, volunteers from Kids Central and Early Head Start, were at the farmers market on Saturday. It was their first weekend helping out at the market. Melvin felt that the program helped a lot to encourage better juvenile health.

“I think it helps a lot with their growth. You know they need all the nutrients that they can get when they’re young. They need the water and they just need to be active. Kids learn a lot through playing,” said Muller.

She continued, “I think it’s really cool that the kids are able to build their own structures and that they just have all the raw materials in front of them and they can just go ahead and do whatever they want with it,” said Muller.

Melvin echoed Muller’s thoughts on the program, and added that the program is free for kids who participate. “[It] helps them and I think it’s cool for kids to come out and be able to do stuff for free and not have to pay for it,” said Melvin.

Parents also loved the event and the opportunity it gave to kids. Anastasia Art was the parent of a three year-old daughter who built a structure on Saturday.

“I think it’s good for kids that especially don’t get a lot of fresh foods in their diet,” she said. “I know kids when they can kind of play with their food, they’re more likely to eat it. So I think it’s great—that kids can play and learn and explore and be more likely to try new foods.”

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