Are you trying to raise your children or grandchildren to be good eaters? Is every meal a struggle to get the kids to eat enough fruits and veggies? Are you looking for some free entertainment over the summer? Well, you are in luck! UGA Extension has a solution to all these issues in the form of the Fun with Fresh Food program.

Fun with Fresh Food is a 20-minute food “commercial” that introduces children and adults to new fruits and vegetables with cooking tips, taste tests, recipes, and free produce to take home. Many children have never shucked corn or snapped a green bean before. The aim is to let them interact with fruits and vegetables using multiple senses. Many times children need to try a food 8 to 15 times before they accept it, so exposure is essential.

The effort started with financial support from the Hospital Authority of Rockdale (HARC), which allowed Rockdale County Extension to purchase a mobile kitchen cart for nutrition education in the community. MaryBeth Hornbeck, Rockdale County FACS Agent, championed the effort with input from community partners, including RCPS School Nutrition, Rockdale Emergency Relief, and the Nancy Guinn Memorial Library.

The 2017 pilot was a huge success. One parent said, “My nine-year-old is so excited to help in the kitchen now, which is huge since I don’t enjoy cooking.” Another parent said, “I never thought to eat green beans raw since I grew up eating them boiled, cut and heavily seasoned. We always get them now when we shop.” Peggy Lawrence, RCPS School Nutrition Director, said, “I could never get my son to eat zucchini. This past weekend, he made the fritters all on his own for a neighborhood party.”

Hornbeck says, “The beauty of the program is that we’re addressing it from multiple angles. We aim to empower the parents and excite the kids by showing the kids how they can help in the kitchen. We let them taste it, and we send them home with the food and the skills. Our hope is that eating green beans, blueberries, or zucchini is not a one-time thing, but rather the beginning of a bigger change.”

Stacy Brown, director of the Conyers-Rockdale Library System, said, “The Nancy Guinn Memorial Library was thrilled to be a part of the “Fun with Fresh Food” program. The parents and children who participated gained valuable information about the importance of clean eating and learned easy ways to cook healthy meals at home. It was the perfect partnership. We fed their minds with educational and enriching programs and MaryBeth fed their bodies with fresh, wholesome foods!”

With continued support from HARC, Hornbeck has a goal of distributing $1000 worth of produce to local families this summer. UGA Extension will be launching the 2018 Fun with Fresh Food Program with a preview booth at the Taste of Conyers Festival. The formal program will be held on Thursdays at 11 am behind the Nancy Guinn Memorial Library starting June 7th. For more information, contact MaryBeth Hornbeck at 770-278-7373 or marybeth.hornbeck@uga.edu.