By Jana Jones
Farmers Market Manager

According to the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) Tennessee ranks highest of the 50 states in obesity rates of children and teens ages 10 to 17 at 37.7%. Obesity is known to lead to many health risks including heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes, to name a few. Healthier Tennessee Communities (HTC) is a Governor Haslam grassroots initiative designed to start state-wide health/wellness programs created specifically to tackle the state’s battle with health issues. Johnson County Healthier TN Communities Wellness Committee (GoJoCo) was formed to partner with the Governor’s Healthier Tennessee Initiative.

The GoJoCo Kids Club was a brain child of the GoJoCo Committee to help educate the younger generation of our community about healthier choices. With the support of this committee, the Diabetes Coalition, and the Johnson County UT/TSU Extension Office, the Johnson County Farmers Market (JCFM) started the GoJoCo Kids Club where children can create healthy snacks and learn about fun exercise activities.
Thanks to new funding by the Johnson County Community Fund through the East Tennessee Foundation, the GoJoCo Kids Club will add another dimension to the Saturday morning fun. Children who participate in the activities at the Kids Club tent will now receive free tokens to spend at the Farmers Market! This will give the children additional motivation to participate and allow them to practice making healthy choices at the market.

Each Saturday morning from 9 until 11:30 volunteers help the kids with a variety of activities. First they will show the children how to make a healthy snack themselves using fresh fruits and vegetables, many of which will be available at the market. Examples are celery filled with cream cheese topped with cherry tomatoes to look like a caterpillar, vegetables arranged on a cracker to look like a bunny, or fruit on a stick made to look like a flower.

Each week will be a different fun snack. Time will be spent talking with the child/children about why they want to choose to eat foods that make them strong and fuel their body instead of sugary foods. A recipe will be provided as a take home reminder for the parent. These are simple snacks that, although are familiar to most of us, many children in our area have never even tasted. By making the snack themselves and being taught the benefits of eating fresh produce, children will taste things that they may otherwise not try at home.

Other activities include teaching the children how to play Chinese jump rope, or race through an obstacle course, or develop eye – foot coordination by playing with a hacky sack. The volunteer will have a chart for each child to keep track of each participant’s progress each week he/she comes to the Kids Tent. With a stopwatch, they will document the time it took the child to race through the obstacle course (similar to a kid’s version of Ninja warrior) so the child will be able to see their improvement over the course of the summer.

The goal of this program is to help young people realize they do have choices. Regardless of their surroundings, if they know why a diet of high sugar foods does not fuel their body in a way that nourishing foods do, they can choose to say “no” to foods and drinks that cause them harm and instead choose a healthier option.

They also have a choice of what to do with their spare time. Children naturally want to play, move, and be creative. By learning some new games to play we hope they will incorporate these activities into their weekly playtime instead of choosing to sit in front of a screen. With the addition of the free tokens that the children can spend like money at the market, this will give them an opportunity to be in control of their choices. There are many healthy choices at the JCFM the children can make.

The Johnson County Farmers Market is located at Ralph Stout Park every Saturday from 9 until noon. We welcome you to visit us each Saturday and enjoy the live music while you shop for farm fresh local produce, dairy, eggs, meat, as well as homemade baked goods, canned goods and handmaid local crafts. Follow us on Facebook to see weekly updates.