Spring has arrived, and while plenty of people in the area have started planting their gardens in the hopes of yielding fresh fruits and vegetables, some groups want to make sure everyone has a chance to enjoy fresh produce year-round.
The Pittston Area School District and the Wyoming Free Library have started hosting children’s produce markets through the Commission on Economic Opportunity, or CEO. The monthly markets allow families who register beforehand to pick up a selection of dry goods, fresh produce and more at no cost every month.
“As long as you have a child in the district you are eligible,” Jill Oliver, Pittston Area math teacher and student council advisor, said of the school’s market. “It’s about 12 to 15 food items that they get that evening.”
Oliver and her student volunteers started doing the produce market at the middle school last October. The first market brought about 70 families to the school, Oliver said.
Now, the monthly event draws an average of about 160 families who register ahead of time to attend.
“There’s no income requirement,” she said. “As long as you have a child in the district you are eligible ... the parents who show up are extremely grateful.”
The hope of the program is to help students in the district have access to fresh, healthy foods like broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes and more of what the market offers monthly, Oliver said.
“That’s at least 15 to 20 percent of our student population we’re helping with the program,” she said. “The people from CEO said we have one of the best turnouts ... it’s nice because we are helping the kids who live in our district.”
Not only does the market help students, students have the chance to help at the market. Oliver said about 15 to 20 students can volunteer each month to help unload, set up and distribute the food.
Oliver said students clamor to volunteer for the markets and often ask to come back month after month.
“Kids come up and ask when is the next produce market,” she said. “I think it’s an eye-opening experience that there is hunger in our community.”
The Pittston Area Leo Club will host the district’s next market from 3:45 to 6 p.m. Monday, April 23, at the middle school.
The Wyoming Free Library opens up its children’s produce market to all families of Luzerne County who register ahead of time. The next market is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, April 7, at the library.
Like Pittston Area, the library does not require proof of income to partake in the event.
Executive Director John Roberts said the library’s market has seen enormous success since it started last summer.
“The turnout has been phenomenal,” he said. “The parents who attend the market have been telling their friends about it.”
Roberts said parents can call or contact the library over Facebook to register.
“The market has been very beneficial to the families,” he said. “Many have expressed gratitude because the cost of food is expensive.”