Correction: An earlier version of this article had the incorrect day for the Market Explorers program. The program will be held Sunday. The story has been updated.
Children will be able to learn more about where their food comes from — and how eating locally grown food contributes to a healthy lifestyle — through a program that is coming to the Mosaic Central Farm Market in Merrifield on Sunday.
The Junior League of Northern Virginia’s Market Explorers program is part of a larger effort to combat childhood obesity.
“What we’re really looking to do is get kids excited and educate them about proper nutrition — not just that healthy food can be fun and good, but where it’s coming from,” said Lauren Riner, chairwoman of the organization’s Nutrition Education Committee.
Children learn that “it’s good to eat things that are fresh, in season, because it’s providing you with good nutrition [and] at the same time supporting your local farmers,” Riner said.
“We want to let them know that it’s typically coming from a farm, whether it’s local” or not she added.
Riner, 31, of Reston, said Junior League volunteers will lead interactive activities to engage the kids and get them thinking about the importance of exercise and healthy eating.
After introducing the Market Explorers program last year at the Cascades Farmers Market in Sterling, the Junior League decided to expand it to the Mosaic District.
Earlier this month, at the farmers market in Sterling, Junior League volunteers took kids on “scavenger hunts,” leading them through a sequence of stations at the vendors’ booths. At some booths, the children did simple exercises: squats, lunges and running in place.
At other stations, volunteers asked questions designed to get the kids thinking about food production: How many eggs does a hen lay? What do plants need to grow? What does it mean to eat seasonally?
At the end of the tour, the kids concocted “Berry Awesome Dippers” — mixing blueberries, strawberries, agave, lime juice and Greek yogurt — and dipped whole-grain tortilla chips in their creations.
“They’re not just coming up and getting a snack,” Riner said. “They’re actually making it. So they can see that it’s not hard to make a snack, and they can make one that is healthy but tastes good at the same time.”
The Junior League of Northern Virginia is a nonprofit group with about 400 members who live or work in Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties and the city of Alexandria, said Beatriz Duque Long, president of the Junior League of Northern Virginia.
In recent years, the group has focused on children’s issues including STEM education, character building and self-esteem, said Long, 34, of Oak Hill.
“But we wanted to have a greater community impact and still serve a large geographic area,” she said. Last year, the group decided to focus on fighting childhood obesity, with an emphasis on healthy eating and active living.
The Junior League’s “Kids in the Kitchen” program includes health fairs and other outreach events. The group has developed partnerships with other nonprofits such as Arcadia Farm, Cornerstones and HealthWorks for Northern Virginia to try to reach children from lower income families, Long said.
“We’re here to educate the kids, but we’re also here to have fun with them, to get them excited about cooking and getting involved in the process at home,” Riner said. “They don’t just have to rely on Mom and Dad. They can get involved in it.”
Barnes is a freelance writer.
The Mosaic Central Farm Market is held Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at 2910 District Ave. in Merrifield.