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Little Farmers: Market teaches youngsters first steps in healthy living

SOUTH POINT — Austin Black reached out for the big shiny Red Delicious apple, eager to put it in his brown paper sack and get back to class.

But apples weren’t the only snack foods available for Austin and his classmates at the Early Childhood Center in South Point Wednesday morning. There were baby carrots, all scrubbed and glistening, orange, bananas, potatoes and oranges.

It was all part of the center’s mock farmers’ market designed to teach the youngsters the first lessons in good eating with the goal that these will last a lifetime.

“With obesity on the rise childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years, this is for our preschool to become aware,” Sue Vanderhoof, center director, said.

The market was one of several daily events marking the ongoing Week of the Young Child, whose focus is on family, children, health and wellness.

“It is about making good life choices, to promote health and wellness,” Vanderhoof said. “We want the kids to know it is just as fun to snack on fruits and vegetable as on chips and sodas.”

After the youngsters made their selections, they went back to the classroom to learn more about what are healthy foods and unhealthy foods.

“We talk about grocery shopping and it is amazing how many talk about going to Food Fair and Walmart and what their parents got them,” Whitney Patten, intervention specialist, said.

Earlier in the week the children learned some basics in exercise and how quenching a post-routine thirst can be done with bottled water, instead of a soft drink.

They also discovered that bagels with cream cheese, carrot sticks and raisins make a fun treat.

On Friday chefs from Blackhawk Grill in Barboursville, W.Va., will offer classes to parents of the center’s students on how to prepare healthy foods. On the menu will be fruit smoothies, snack mix and a stir fry.

“We are hoping that when they accompany their parents to the grocery store, this experience will want them to pick out things from the produce aisle,” Vanderhoof said. “These are baby steps.”