New Pilot Program Teaches Food Education, Healthier Eating
MONTROSE — In a trifecta of education, preparation and anticipation, young children waited excitedly, in front of hot ovens, to sample food they had just made with their parents in a new program designed to promote healthy eating.
Ten local low-income families are participating in the first pilot program of its kind in Colorado, designed to help increase the consumption of local fruits and vegetables in children ages 6 through 12 along, with their parents.
The program, Local Farmacy Rx (LFRX), a local non-governmental program developed and implemented by the Valley Food Partnership and LiveWell Montrose/Olathe ,is funded by the Colorado Health Foundation.
Six local families teamed up in a cooking education classroom at Centennial Middle School Saturday, Aug. 23, to learn how to make vegetarian tostadas with locally produced vegetables. Classes will continue through Nov. 1. After completion, participating families will earn Local Farmacy Bucks — up to $35 per week — to use and buy local produce at the Montrose Farmers Market.
This year about $5,000 worth of Farmacy bucks will be given to LFRX participants – a total of 10 families – in the pilot program. Next year the program is scheduled to deliver $20,000 in Farmacy bucks.
“It’s to help with kids,” said Abbie Brewer of the Montrose Farmers Market, to capture their taste buds in their early years for, “help them develop a taste for vegetables.”
Tammy and Jason Cuneo and their two children, 3-year-old Jalee and 9-year-old Noah, were one participating family. On a pair of baking sheets, the Cuneo kids laid out cooked corn tortillas, covering them with locally grown tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro and cheese.
Tammy Cuneo said her family has a history of diabetes and heart disease, and anticipates the program will help them eat more healthfully.
“We know essentially how to eat healthy, but it’s really for the kids – how do we introduce these foods to the kids and teach them to eat healthy,” Tammy said of the program. Why is she participating? “My main reason is to teach the kids a healthier lifestyle, something they can carry on with and not have any risks or health issues,” she said.
Just a few feet away, a visibly excited Noah proclaimed he liked bell peppers and lettuce and could not wait for the tostadas to be removed from the oven. “I have no idea if I’ll like it or not, but I’m going to try it,” he grinned.
Tammy said her family has gluten issues, which can make some products in stores more expensive – and even limit what fruits and vegetables they can afford. The weekly Farmers Market bucks will help with those costs.
“So when you look at bread, and it’s $7, compared to regular bread that’s 99 cents, we’re thinking how are we going to stretch this so we can eat healthier,” Tammy said.
Brewer said the next class at the middle school will focus on freezing vegetables and other forms of preservation.
“We will be focusing on preservation, canning and making foods last longer,” she said.
The program is funded by a $160,000 grant from the Colorado Health Foundation. Brewer said the program will initiate a Local Farmacy RX network of medical providers over the next several months to prescribe “prescriptions” for fruits and vegetables and will be issued to 1,500 medical patients over the next two years.
For more information, email Brewer at firstname.lastname@example.org.