The Rapidian

Cooking Demos Increase Healthy Food Sales at YMCA Veggie Van and Urban Grocery Stores

Michigan Harvest of the Month Showcases do more than provide education about how to select, store, prepare, and preserve fresh fruits and vegetables. They also help to generate a crowd and create a thriving community around healthy food.
Underwriting support from:

YMCA Veggie Van Schedule

The YMCA Veggie Van is West Michigan's first and only mobile farmers market. The Veggie Van runs year round, making daily stops in urban neighborhoods throughout Grand Rapids and Muskegon, assuring that fruits and vegetables are available to people who otherwise have limited access to fresh produce. We sell locally grown, top-quality fruits and vegetables at reduced prices. Additionally, we accept SNAP, WIC, and Senior Project Fresh/Market FRESH benefits.  Click here to find a location and time near you.

/YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids

“It’s not enough to just show up in a low-income neighborhood with low price tags on fruits and vegetables,” said a YMCA Veggie Van employee at a staff meeting last week. “We need to teach people how to make healthy food taste good.” Michigan Harvest of the Month, an evidence-based outreach initiative, partners with the YMCA Veggie Van and urban grocery stores in Grand Rapids to teach consumers how to prepare Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables.

Michigan Harvest of the Month Showcases include live cooking demonstrations, recipe distribution, and free sampling. Recipes featured during showcases rotate based on the most readily available seasonal fruits and vegetables. In addition to promoting Michigan-grown produce, the goal of the program is to positively influence the purchase and consumption of fruits and vegetables among low-income Michigan residents at the point of sale.

 

“The YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids is deeply invested in building a healthier community,” shares the YMCA’s Community Collaborations Director, Sara Vander Zanden. “We offer Nutrition in Action in public schools to promote healthy choices among youth, we facilitate Cooking Matters classes to demonstrate to adults that having a healthy diet can be easy and affordable, and we operate the Veggie Van in low-income neighborhoods to increase access to fruits and vegetables. The missing link was providing education about healthy choices at the point-of-sale. That’s why we applied for funding to administer Michigan Harvest of the Month at Veggie Van sites and at urban grocery stores throughout the city.”

 

For a list of the most publically accessible Michigan Harvest of the Month Showcases, see below:

 

 

DHS (121 Franklin St. SE) – Every Monday from 10:30 am – Noon

 

Grand Rapids Public Library (111 Library St. NE) – Every Tuesday 11:30 am – 12:30 pm

 

Cook Library Center (1100 Grandville Ave. NW) – Every Wednesday 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm

 

New City Urban Farm (1226 Union NE) – Every Thursday 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

 

Family Fare Rogers Plaza (1148 28th St. SW) – Friday, August 1st and Friday, August 29th 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm and Saturday, August 9th 11:00 am – 3:00 pm

 

Family Fare Leonard (1225 Leonard NE) – Friday, August 22nd 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm and August 2nd and Saturday, August 30th 11:00 am – 3:00 pm

 

Family Fare Fulton Heights (1415 East Fulton St.) – Friday, August 15th 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm and Saturday, August 23 11:00 am – 3:00 pm

 

Family Fare Burlingame (2900 Burlingame SW) – Friday, August 8th 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm and Saturday, August 16th 11:00 am – 3:00 pm

 

Michigan Harvest of the Month Showcases do more than provide education about how to select, store, prepare, and preserve fresh fruits and vegetables. The cooking demonstrations also help to generate a crowd and create a thriving community around healthy food. Veggie Van staff have observed larger crowds since the implementation of Harvest of the Month Showcases. Michigan Harvest of the Month educator Emily Ackerberg adds, “The same people keep coming back week after week. One mom told me that she could never get her daughter to eat tomatoes until she sampled our Southwestern Chip Dip. Now she asks for tomatoes for breakfast.”

Try this popular Michigan Harvest of the Month recipe at home:

 

Southwestern Chip Dip

2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced

2 cups corn

1 cup avocado, diced

½ cup lime juice

Dash of cayenne pepper

 

Mix all ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir until thoroughly combined. Serve with celery or multi-grain chips.

 

 

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