The Winnebago Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) staff did not know exactly who they were hiring as their summer intern when they asked Sarah Heidorf to join the staff. Heidorf, a UW-Green Bay student studying nutritional sciences, was to serve as a marketing liaison for WIC and the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) with a goal of increasing participants’ awareness and utilization of the farmers’ markets in Winnebago County. Her role evolved from that into much more.
“I started surveying our participants and realized very quickly that attendance at farmers markets depended on two critical elements: 1) finding time to get to the market and 2) the willingness of family members to eat their fruits and vegetables,” said Heidorf. To battle the time restrictions, she arranged to have vendors come to the Oshkosh WIC check pick up site. “It’s been a tough growing season, and as a result, our vendor for July had to cancel due to minimal lack of produce to sell. However, we fully intend on being ready on-site for August, September, and October pick-ups in Oshkosh.”
To encourage the youngsters of the family to indulge in their fruits and vegetables, Heidorf visited a number of child day care centers in the county dressed up as “Young Mac Donald”, in overalls and brightly colored clothing and accessories. “In order for kids to try something new, you need a little dose of healthy peer pressure, mixed in with a whole lot of fun. I put them in a familiar environment, and we sing a modified version of ‘Old Mac Donald’ where instead of raising animals on the farm, we grow a rainbow of different fruits and vegetables,” states Heidorf. Young Mac Donald’s farm is an active place as well as she gets the kids moving as they jump up and down throughout the song if they are wearing the colors in the verses. They then participate in a taste testing of various fruits and vegetables. “On average, about two-thirds of the class tries something new, and it is not uncommon to see empty plates at the end of the program,” she boasted proudly.
Heidorf also entertains the school-agers with age appropriate activities. Playing with your food is completely allowed on Young Mac Donald’s farm. You will see children building sheep creatures out of cauliflower, celery, and a black olive. To end the creative session, Heidorf gives each child an apple. Using nothing but their teeth, the children are instructed to create a masterpiece of art in an apple carving contest (see James Flannigan, above, showing off his puppy that he carved into his apple at Davis Child Care Center in Oshkosh). “This is my favorite “sneaky” way to get them to eat their fruits and veggies—the most nutrients are in the skin, and this is the first part that disappears into their bellies!”smiled Heidorf.
WIC provides food and nutrition information to help keep pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, and children under five years of age healthy and strong. Many working families qualify. FMNP checks must be redeemed by October 31.
For more information on WIC and FMNP Services, please contact the Oshkosh office at (920) 232-3350 or Neenah office at (920) 729-2945.