“Investing in early childhood nutrition is a surefire strategy. The returns are incredibly high.”
- Anne M. Mulcahy, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Save the Children.
Michigan is second only to California in agricultural diversity—and West Michigan produces 85 percent of all crops harvested in Michigan. The Downtown Market has made it our mission to help residents learn about what we eat, where it comes from and the effect it has on our bodies. How do those crops get to our plates, and how do we make the most of our local fruits and vegetables? Teaching where food comes from and the benefits of eating real food is important to help combat the overwhelming amount of messages we receive every day to eat processed food.
To date, the Downtown Market Education Foundation has served more than 5,000 individuals and 100 community groups, of which over 1,300 individuals were provided free scholarships for nutrition education. Hands-on experiences, such as growing food, harvesting, and then making it into a healthy and delicious meal, make kids more likely to try new foods and make good food choices. For adults, these experiences help provide them easy recipes and alternatives to processed foods to serve their families.
The Downtown Market Education Foundation was created to offer culinary and nutrition education, entrepreneur opportunities, a place for local food production and greenhouse growing, all centered around the goal of creating a healthy community lifestyle. We do this seven days a week, 365 days a year. And, with our ability to offer scholarships, we do it for everyone.
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION (0-5 YEARS)
Our early childhood programs are designed to help children 0-5 years old experience healthy lifestyles right from the start. To make this happen, we work hand-in-hand with families, schools, and other community organizations. These are kids, so we know fun is key. That’s why you’ll find our programs engaging and interactive. And very fun!
KID AND TEEN PROGRAMS
As an individual or as part of a group, youth and teen participants learn from the ground up. By ground, we mean dirt. They start in the greenhouse, learning all aspects of growing (planting, pruning, harvesting, and even worm bins), then they head to the kitchen to test their culinary skills, and then their palates. They don’t even know it, but we just helped them take a step forward in the long road of health and well-being.
Our greenhouse and culinary programs help people learn more about food and where it comes from. Not from a freezer, not from a box, but from the land and the kitchen. By offering hands-on programs right in our greenhouses and our kitchens, participants experience everything from growing, food preparation, and budgeting, to nutrition and the importance of shopping smart.
The FoodWorks program is designed to support local food businesses at all stages of growth, and encourages individuals to plug in within the early stages of development We've learned that the success of a start up food business is dependent on the availability of resources, support, and technical assistance. Through open office hours, mentorship, networking, and collaborative efforts, we have the opportunity to work with good food businesses from the ground up.