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Try This! program awards more than $100,000 for healthy living projects

The Bridgeport farmers market features a slew of local and regional favorites, from crafts to live music to farm fresh vegetables, eggs and meat, but one tent in particular brings the mission of the market to Harrison County’s youngest citizens.

The market’s Power of Produce (POP) Club, created in June, allows area children to visit the market and purchase produce of their choice from a special tent using tokens provided for them by the market. Kids can spend their two tokens each week or save for something bigger, but each is given the chance to learn from volunteers how to cook and prepare food from what they’ve purchased. It’s something Debbie Workman, treasurer for the market’s board, said has really taken off — more than 300 kids have joined Bridgeport’s POP Club, which is free to any child in the county.

“Our market runs from May to October, every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. We’ve kind of become like a festival every single Sunday — people come, they buy their local food, they hang out and have brunch, they listen to music, they watch chef demonstrations,” she said. “Last year, we found out through social media about a farmer’s market in Oregon that was doing the POP Club and thought, ‘Wow, we could do this.’”

The Bridgeport market needed money for the program, of course, and so Workman approached a new and innovative statewide network for funding — Try This!, launched two years ago as a collaborative effort among West Virginia community agencies to combat the state’s obesity epidemic, awarded more than $100,000 in grants this year to 57 healthy living projects across the state.

The POP Club was one of them. Another, the “Toolbrary,” a project developed by Grow Ohio Valley in Wheeling, will create a traveling trailer of gardening tools — enough for 30 people — that can be scheduled and used by schools, nursing homes and other large community groups, according to Ken Peralta, executive director of Grow Ohio Valley.

“A lot of schools want to be doing school gardening, but they don’t have tools, so it seemed plain and simple to put together that had full sets of gardening tools people could use for gardening,” he said.

Like many other projects that have received a minigrant through Try This!, Peralta said Grow Ohio Valley was able to leverage the minigrant and receive additional funding. The teams that received the first round of minigrants from Try This! turned $82,000 in grants into projects worth more than $750,000, according to Kate Long, one of the founding partners of Try This!

“We’re starting post videos online, we’re having regional meetings, and we’re starting to do trainings on a community level to help them do multi-year healthy lifestyle planning,” Long said. “Up until now, West Virginia spent most of its health money treating diseases that could have been prevented — we spend 7 out of 10 of our dollars, according to a legislative study, treating obesity-related diseases that could have been prevented. Now it’s time to try to prevent those diseases. We know how, but it’s got to happen on the local level.”

The group’s website, www.trythiswv.com, features advice about hundreds of projects and hundreds of pictures of West Virginians creating healthy living projects in their communities. For more information on this year’s minigrant recipients, visit http://trythiswv.com/mini grants-minigrants.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5189 or follow @lydianuzum on Twitter.

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