The Power of Produce Club will return to the Crookston Farmers Market this week to encourage customers to eat their fruits and vegetables.

The Power of Produce Club, initially launched several years ago in Oregon, is an incentive program designed to promote healthy eating.

This is the second year the PoP program, which will be launched at Thursday's Crookston Farmers Market, is supported by 11 local Crookston businesses. The club’s goal is to raise $4,000 this year.

The PoP program is open to ages 0 to 18 and another program, the Power of Produce Plus, is available for ages 65 and older. Both programs encourage children, their families and senior citizens to weekly visit the Crookston Farmers Market. Power of Produce and Power of Produce Plus organizers maintain that shopping at farmers markets will result in purchasing and consumption of food that is healthy. Meanwhile, the programs also have the potential to increase the farmers’ markets’ customer bases.

All weekly attendees ages 0-18 and 65 and older will receive a $2 voucher, which can be used to purchase fresh produce at the booths of participating farmers market vendors. Produce at last week’s Crookston Farmers Market included asparagus and sugar snap peas, said Megan Hruby, a University of Minnesota Extension economist who helped organize the PoP program in Crookston.

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A variety of produce will become available as the growing season progresses, so the vouchers can be saved and used later, as long as they are used for purchase of fresh produce, Hruby said.

“They could save it up until the end of the market and have a big haul then,” she said.

Last year, 367 youth signed up for the program and there were 984 total Crookston Farmers Market visits. Farmer vendors who participated in the program were reimbursed $1,593.

Venders who accept the vouchers are encouraged to talk to the youth and seniors who submit them about how they grow the fruits or vegetables and how to prepare them. Feedback after last year’s PoP program indicated that people enjoyed eating fresh produce or using them in new recipes, according to Hruby.

Youth and seniors who want to participate in the program must attend the Crookston Farmers Market and ask for the vouchers at the PoP booth. The farmers market is from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursdays in Crookston at the Downtown Square on the corner of North Ash and Third Street. Vouchers will be issued at the Crookston Farmers Market, with the exception of July 4th and the week of Ox Cart Days held Aug. 12-18, until funds run out.

The Thief River Falls Farmers Market is held from 9 a.m. to noon at the Lloyd B. Olson Park.

For more information, contact Hruby at jans9221@umn.edu or Kirsten Fagerlund at kirsten.fagerlund@co.polk.mn.us.