7 May 2023

Farmers market launches school grants program to encourage healthy eating and buying habits

| Travis Radford
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Capital Region Farmers Market manager Sarah Power.

Capital Region Farmers Market manager Sarah Power (pictured) encouraged everyone to learn where their food comes from. Photo: Capital Region Farmers Market.

‘How could we get more involved in the community and particularly with school kids to help them understand where their food comes from?’

This question posed by Capital Region Farmers Market and its owners, the Rotary Club of Hall, culminated in the Market Munchies program.

Under the program, three local primary or secondary schools would be awarded $1500 grants towards self-nominated programs to educate children on the importance of a healthy diet, growing and eating locally grown food, and supporting local farmers and producers.

One grant would be awarded during each of the three remaining 2023 school terms, totalling a $4500 investment in Canberra’s schools.

Market manager Sarah Power said school grants were selected to directly engage with Canberra’s future decision-makers.

“It’s where we start the conversations about what we’re eating, why we’re eating it [and] why we’re choosing different foods,” she said.

“School kids … want to know all these things and it’s just a really fun way to be a part of those conversations that parents are having.”

People browsing Capital Region Farmers Market stalls.

Successful grant applicants will also have the opportunity to host their own school stall at the farmers’ markets. Photo: Capital Region Farmers Market.

Ms Power suggested schools could, for example, start their own produce gardens or cooking programs involving new types of food.

“We’re excited to see what the schools come up with but definitely [initiatives] around those things would be fantastic,” she said.

Successful schools would also be given the opportunity to run a stall at the farmers’ markets and sell their produce to fundraise for their school, as well as hold a cooking demonstration with their own recipe which used either farmers’ market produce or food grown by the school itself.

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However, only the top three grant applications would be determined by the market themselves, with the community then choosing a winner by casting their votes in a physical ballot open to school and community members over a four-week period at the markets’ Exhibition Park venue.

“It was a fairly simple voting system and we thought, ‘Well, how can we make the most of this?'” Ms Power said.

“Milk bottle lids are one of those things that you can’t recycle but there is a local charity here in Canberra that takes them for recycling.

“So we thought, we’ve all got milk bottles lying around, so we encourage people to bring the [tops] in and use those as their voting tokens.”

For any long black drinkers or milk boycotters, the farmers market would also have a supply of milk bottle tops for those people to cast their votes.

Bottle top vote tokens would then be donated to Lids4Kids, a Canberra-based charity established to prevent bottle lids from going to landfill.

Lids4Kids sends the lids it collects to Australian recycling plastic manufacturers, which turn them into sustainable recycled plastic products.

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Beyond the school grants program, Ms Power also urged all Canberrans to learn more about where their food was coming from.

“All sorts of food, whether they’re in season or not, are available in our supermarkets everywhere,” she said.

“I think it’s such a great idea for us to be aware that not all foods are available all the time.

“They grow in different seasons and some don’t grow in Australia at all.”

She said people wanting to learn more could speak to any of the 100-odd local farmers and food producers with stalls at the farmers’ markets.

“That food is literally coming from down the road or 100 kilometres away, rather than from big corporations or even potentially overseas,” she said.

Schools can register for term two grant funding before Monday, 15 May by contacting Sarah Power at market.manager@crfm.com.au.

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