Fresh From the Farmer’s Market: Flavorful Produce is Ripe for the Picking for Summer Program Meals
Summer is the time of year when there are plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable options available at local farmer’s markets. Visiting the farmers market makes for a wonderful outing for families to get familiar with local foods and to get to know the farmers that produce it for them.
In Georgia, it’s easy to find an abundant harvest of fruit such as blueberries, watermelon, and peaches, or vegetables like cabbage, eggplant, squash, peppers, and tomatoes that are ripe and plentiful for nutritious meals and snacks.
Recently, the USDA staff in Atlanta traveled to Macon for a Summer Meals Kick-Off Rally to the Mulberry Street Farmer’s Market. The rally was sponsored by Georgia Department of Education, Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning and the Mulberry Street Farmer’s Market. This rally was to celebrate the importance of the Summer Food Service Program/Seamless Summer Option and its positive impacts on children in Georgia. Parents and children were able to purchase fresh produce from the farmer’s market as well as participate in nutrition enrichment activities. The event featured special guests including Mrs. Sandra Deal, Georgia’s First Lady; an Atlanta Falcons Football player and local elected officials. A unique feature is that this is the first year that the farmer’s market began serving as a site for summer meals. Meal service began June 20th, and they will continue serving a late lunch on Wednesdays throughout the summer. They plan to continue operating next year and possibly expand service depending on community participation. In addition to receiving meals, the children have access to play tennis at the courts nearby, which adds to the excitement of coming to the site.
In Georgia, an increasing number of sites operating USDA’s Summer Feeding Program are choosing to take advantage of the opportunity to partner with local farmer’s markets. Partnership allows sites to procure local produce and provide a learning environment for children that familiarizes them with farmers and the variety of foods that are grown locally, or even right in their own community.
The USDA resource “Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs Guide” showcases the many ways summer meal sponsors can purchase local foods.
The 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend following a healthy eating pattern that includes a variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other; and fruits, especially whole fruits. Vegetables are important sources of many nutrients, including dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A, C, B complex , and iron. Each of the vegetable subgroups contributes different combinations of nutrients, making it important for individuals to consume vegetables from all the subgroups. Among the many nutrients fruits provide are dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. Eating whole fruits is recommended in order to consume the additional dietary fiber that is not available from fruit juice.
Summer sites, just like schools, child care, and early education programs (e.g., child care centers, day care homes, Head Start programs, preschool and pre-kindergarten) are uniquely positioned to model and reinforce healthful eating behaviors by including fruits and vegetables at meals, activities and events, such as celebrations, and incorporating nutrition education into curricula.
Here is a great recipe that includes several vegetables that are in season this summer in Georgia (tomatoes, bell pepper, and summer squash), and can be served at home (serves 8) or increased to use for a summer feeding site.
MAKES ABOUT 8 SERVINGS
• ¾ pound lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
• 1 cup onion, chopped
• 1 cup carrots, diced
• 1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (or ½ teaspoon garlic powder)
• 3½ cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
• 1 can (about 15 ounces) low-sodium kidney beans, drained
• 2 cups water
• 1½ tablespoons chili powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 2 cups summer squash, (yellow squash or zucchini), diced
1. Cook ground beef (or turkey) in a large pot over medium heat until no longer pink. Drain off fat.
2. Add onions, carrots, green peppers, and garlic. Cook over low heat until onion is softened, about 8 minutes.
3. Stir in tomatoes, beans, water, chili powder, and salt. Cook, uncovered, until chili comes to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook, uncovered, 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
4. Add squash and simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes longer.
Nutrition Information for 1 serving (about 1 cup) of Summer Chili
Calories from Fat 40
Total Fat 5g
Sat. Fat 1g
Cholesterol 30 mg
Sodium 210 mg
Total Carb. 17 g
Dietary Fiber 5g
Sugar 5 g
Protein 13 g
Vitamin A 194 RAE
Vitamin C 34 mg
Calcium 49 mg
Iron 2 mg
Recipe adapted from Clemson Extension Home and Garden Center.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, 2013. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2013.
*Submitted by: Joi H. Parks, MPH, RDN, LDN, Regional Nutrition Coordinator – USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Southeast Regional Office