Photos by Shawn Linehan Photography
Normally, I don’t work all day at our Sunday markets, but this year was different, right? For my days at the Lents International Farmers Market (LIFM), I volunteered to greet the kids at the Market Scouts booth and enjoyed some very sweet moments. Slow Food Portland (SFP) coordinated the Market Scouts program at LIFM for the program’s eighth season. While there were no hands-on activities this year, volunteers inspired youth to try new foods, make healthy food choices and understand their place in the food system through take-home activity sheets.
It was a rousing success. There where more than 1000 visits to the booth, with each visitor receiving $3 in market tokens. That means an additional $3000 in sales for market vendors. And, think of it, for a family with three children, an additional $9 of farm fresh food in their home each week.
One of my favorite activity sheets was about growing and cooking with herbs. N and N Amaro Farm had bunches of basil, spearmint and dill for sale, so I fashioned a fragrant bouquet to show the kids. Once each child sanitized their hands and date-stamped their own card, I gave then each the educational sheet and three tokens to spend that day. Before they ran off, I crumpled a leaf of mint and asked them to give it a sniff. Nearly every child hollered-out “mint.” Yeah, now they all know where mint comes from. One youngster said, “gum” and that made us all laugh.
On the last day of the market season, Sunday November 22nd, I enjoyed the booth again. Bundled children hurried toward the table, happy to be out and eager for another chance to hold their own money. It was heartwarming to see their bright eyes above colorful masks. And their parents showed appreciation too. One mom handed me two greeting cards, one for us and one for SFP. These sweet thank you notes, drawn by her youngest daughter and carefully printed by her older one, almost brought tears to my eyes. Such a rewarding way to end this topsy-turvy season.
Portland Farmers Market is forever grateful to Slow Food Portland for creating the programming and funding the tokens to keep Market Scouts going. If you would like to help us offer the program in 2021, learn more about the program and donate here.