Big Rapids Downtown Farmers Market features free nutrition lessons

BALANCED MEAL: District 10 Health Department educator Shelby Thren operates a booth at the Downtown Big Rapids Farmers Market where she teaches the value of a balanced diet. Fresh fruits and veggies should cover half of the plate during meals, the more colorful the better, she said. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

BALANCED MEAL: District 10 Health Department educator Shelby Thren operates a booth at the Downtown Big Rapids Farmers Market where she teaches the value of a balanced diet. Fresh fruits and veggies should cover half of the plate during meals, the more colorful the better, she said. (Pioneer photo/Adam Gac)

BIG RAPIDS — The Downtown Big Rapids Farmers Market offers more than fresh produce, baked goods and other artisan products – it’s a place where area residents can acquire knowledge.

Every market day, representatives from the District 10 Health Department are available to help residents learn a little about how to make responsible and healthy food choices through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The program offers nutrition education for children and adults, according to Shelby Thren, health educator with the health department.

“Every week, I choose two lessons out of my curriculum to teach during the farmers market,” she said. “The lessons focus on how to build your plate, how to shop for produce, what to look for, how to store it, recipes on how to cook with your fresh produce and some wellness tips on top of that so you have an overall healthy lifestyle.”

On Friday, Thren taught visitors to the farmers market how to balance fruits and vegetables on their plate and get the most from their grains.

“You should make half of your plate fruits and vegetables – the more color the better,” she said. “Also, make half of your grains whole grains. Doing both is good for your body, it makes you feel happy and healthy and it’s a good way to prevent chronic diseases and illnesses.

“Type-2 Diabetes is skyrocketing in our country. Proper fruit and vegetable consumption really helps with that. When you throw in some whole grains as well you’re getting good fiber, it’s good for your digestion, your metabolism, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, all that. Fresh food makes your body feel great and then you feel great.”

Thren doesn’t stop at telling residents about the benefits of fresh produce, farmers market shoppers who need some assistance selecting foods can walk the market with the health department educator to get some hands-on help.

“People can come visit me at the market and I can walk them around and show them how to buy locally grown, fresh produce,” she said. “I also can give people tips on what they should buy at the grocery store – what’s in season, when they should buy it, how to cook, prepare and store it as well.

“When you go to the grocery store, you should be looking for dark, rich produce full of nutrients. The darker the color, the better the produce is for you.”

Hosting the health department at the farmers market is beneficial for the residents of Big Rapids, according to Mark Gifford, director of the Department of Public Works.

“I think people value having an educational component to the farmers market,” he said. “It’s something that helps people if they have questions or if they want to improve their diet.”

Eating fresh and local produce is important to promoting a happy and healthy community, according to Leigha Oberle, of Earth Weavers Farm – one of the vendors at the downtown farmers market.

“Food is your medicine,” she said. “It’s really important to us to help people have a healthy diet and live a happy life.”

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Posted by Adam Gac

Adam is the Pioneer City/County Reporter, covering government in Mecosta County. He can be reached by e-mail at agac@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8347.

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