The Oregon City Farmers Market needed funds to continue the Power of Produce Club, so the Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District offered a challenge grant that would match, dollar for dollar, up to $3,000 in contributions (“County district buys kids veggies at market,” Oct. 30).

The result? An outpouring of donations from local businesses and private citizens received during the past few months gave the POP Club the $3,000 it needed to match the challenge.

Those donations mean the Pop Club will receive $6,000 for their program.

“This amount of money should carry us through to the end of summer 2013,” said Jackie Hammond-Williams, market manager. “We are just so grateful for the contributions from the local community that allowed us to take advantage of the challenge grant.”

She added that the Soil and Water Conservation District has been instrumental in supporting the fight against childhood obesity with the program that connects kids with fresh local produce and encourages healthy eating habits.

Now in its second year, the POP Club introduces kids to the source of their food. They meet farmers and develop relationships with those who grow food, and many are inspired to plant their own food garden with seedlings bought with their POP tokens. Farmers, in turn, benefit from the additional sales generated when kids develop a liking for vegetables or fruit, resulting in additional purchases by their parents.

Since May 2011, about 2,650 local kids have registered and participated in the POP program. It takes a huge amount of money to keep this nationally recognized program afloat.

Often in the height of summer, more than $300 in $2 wooden tokens go to POP Club participants, empowering the children (ages 5 to 12) to shop for their own healthy foods and changing eating habits. The $6,000 infusion of funds to the program will generate thousands of kids’ shopping trips to the farmers market booths.

Jeff Becker, president of the Oregon City Farmers Market, said “the financial support from the community and the Conservation District provides a tremendous side benefit to the POP Club program. It allows us to plan for the future and opens the door to new sources of funding.”

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