Last Sprouts event of the season!

Last Sprouts event of the season!

So your son won’t touch broccoli? Can’t choke down green beans? Even turns up his nose at carrots?

Bring him to Urbana’s Market at the Square this weekend, where the last “Sprouts at the Market” event of the season will offer kids a chance to sample locally grown fruits and vegetables and learn about hunger in their own back yard.

The free Sprouts programs are held once a month from May to October at the Saturday morning farmer’s market outside Lincoln Square Village. The idea is to teach kids about where food comes from and the advantages of eating in-season, nutritious produce.

This Saturday, from 9 to 11 a.m., Sprouts will partner with the Eastern Illinois Foodbank for “Birds of a Feather,” a produce-tasting/educational event geared toward children ages 3 to 8.

In addition to meeting local farmers and getting nutrition information, each child will have a chance to sample some of the late-fall fruits, vegetables, cheese, honey and other farm products available at the market. Kids who visit all four Sprouts stations will receive a Certificate of Participation, and t-shirts will also be for sale.

October is Food for Families month at the food bank, so this month’s goal is also to teach kids about hunger issues, said market director Lisa Bralts.

The Market at the Square has donated almost five tons of produce to the food bank this year, “all grown right here,” Bralts said. “Our growers here have been extremely generous.”

“We’re working together to get local food to people in need. That food is not going to waste,” she said.

First piloted two years ago, Sprouts has been a hit with children and parents, with participation steadily increasing each month, Bralts said. The program expanded from two weekends in 2008 to four last year to six this year.

The Champaign County Master Gardeners partnered on the first event, helping kids plant seeds. The University of Illinois Family Resiliency Center co-hosted “Eat a Rainbow” in September, where 125 children went through the market getting their passport stamped as they sampled different foods.

“All of these kids are trying food that they’ve never tried before,” Bralts said. "Every time, I hear a parent say something to me like, ‘Little Tommy has never tried a green bean before, but he did today.' Our goal is to get the kids trying fruits and vegetables that were grown locally ... and also to meet the farmers that grew them.

“If we get them while they’re young, they’ll be consumers as they get older.”

Saturday’s Sprouts event will be canceled in the event of heavy rains, though the Market at the Square will go on rain or shine.

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Photo:   T. J. Salas of Urbana buys a tomato plant from the Steve Owens Farm at the 2009 Market at the Square in Urbana. Robert K. O'Daniell/The News-Gazette

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