Michigan Fresh helps residents navigate local farmers markets

Entering its second year, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension’s Discover Michigan Fresh farmers market tours help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)‒eligible residents become familiar with their local farmers markets and explore Michigan-grown produce.

Our nutrition education staff members meet tour participants at the farmers market where they are escorted on a guided tour, meet farmers and exchange ideas for preparing new and familiar farm-fresh products. Participants are encouraged to consider how they might use items purchased at the market to fill a nutritious MyPlate. (MyPlate is a U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative to promote healthy eating by simply filling your plate with the right mix of healthy foods.)

MSU Extension staff members also assist participants in understanding how food assistance benefits are used in their market. The tours encourage participants to use their farmers market as a source of nutritious, delicious, affordable food while keeping local dollars in the community. Also we hand out our own Michigan Fresh fact sheets are used as a reference. Participants also receive a participant booklet that contains information ranging from market shopping tips, to produce storage and preservation tips, to recipes. Our tours can be offered as the nutrition education component in concert with other community programs such as Market FRESH and Hoophouses for Health.

Last year was the pilot year with tours taking place in eight counties (from Alger to Monroe), in eight districts, reaching over 180 participants. Farmers and vendors report that they appreciate the opportunity to chat with participants. We’ve received positive feedback from participants, including these quotes from last season’s attendees:

“I liked the tour because healthy food is good for my soul as well as my heart.”

“I learned about Hoophouses for Health and I learned that a lot of vendors accept EBT, Project FRESH and Double Up Food Bucks.”

“I personally thought the tour of the farmers market was well needed. This was a great experience.”

“I had a great time on the tour. We visited a lot of Michigan-made vendors and that was the best to support our own people.”

This year, tours are being considered or are already planned in 13 districts and staff have even more options for materials. New this season: Materials are currently being completed for use with senior audiences and Discover Michigan Fresh Junior is in the works.

The Discover Michigan Fresh team developed a new booklet for use with seniors with some additional information, such as tips for shopping for one and small-quantity recipes. The senior tours are a great piece for our staff to be able to offer to local Area Agencies on Aging as the nutrition education piece during Market FRESH coupon distribution.

When complete, Discover Michigan Fresh Junior will consist of fun lessons for kids in grades K‒5, focusing on produce found in Michigan farmers markets and encouraging guest farmer Q&A’s. The lessons can be used at the market or offsite (for example, during summer camp) with a field trip to the market.

Find Michigan Fresh fact sheets, recipes, and recipe videos here: www.michiganfresh.msue.msu.edu

If you are wondering how a Discover Michigan Fresh tour might look in action, watch this video, produced by ANR Creative, by clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfzxNEG_VnQ

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