Friday, July 2, 2010

It's a Kid Production!

Boys were waving signs and directing me into the parking lot with the call of  "Buy fruits and vegetables"  as I approached the Coleman Community Center.

As I stepped from the car into the furnace of heat, I was immediately greeted by a young man eager to sell his wares.  Other children scurried around, serious intent on their faces.

Such was my first experience with one of the Veggie Markets markets sponsored by Monroe Carrol Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.   The markets are staffed by neighborhood children with guidance from the Vanderbilt Children's Health Improvement and Prevention initiative.   

Sergio, 8 yrs old, was working advertising and described the job as "makes posters and chants of the market".  Before being hired, he filled out a job application, just like an adult!  With a smile on his face and pride in his voice he announced that on his application he "didn't talk of money but said he wanted to learn to get healthy."  He loves salad and fruits. 

Angi (8) and Javion (11), working customer service, announced the availability and prices for the day. On his application, Javion wanted to "help the world".  He told me the produce at the grocery store doesn't look as pretty or taste as good as what you can buy at their market.

Angi's father came by and asked Angi help him decide what to buy for dinner and she danced off, excited at this new task.  Helping a parent pick healthy foods!  What a great lesson!

Six different markets are run in low-income areas of Nashville where fresh produce is sometimes scarce.  And with a 40% childhood obesity rate in Tennessee, this service has never been more important.  I purchased gorgeous blueberries, ripe red tomatoes, corn that smelled like heaven and green peppers all for $5.00.  Try doing that at the grocery store!

And Nashville is getting involved.  With underwriting grants from First Tennessee Bank and locations donated by Metro Parks, its no wonder that they entering their third successful year.

The produce is purchased wholesale from farmers.  Only produce grown within 150 miles of Nashville is used.  The market prices are set based on weight and and base cost with enough added in to keep the market open.

Besides a small salary, the diligent workers are learning great lessons in marketing and advertising, math (they write up receipts, take money and make change), organization, and customer service.  

But most important, they are learning how good local, in season fruits and veggies can taste. An example was shared with me:  "The other day the ice cream truck went by.  One of the boys said 'Why would you want ice cream when you could have a peach?'"

'Nuff said!


  1. This story seriously gave me goosebumps. What a lovely, lovely thing. Wish we had one here! And the story itself? SO good. But the pictures really take it to the next level. I want to hug them!

  2. I know! They were so amazing and so very obviously serious about these jobs!