Project Play and Power of Produce Beef Up Oak Park Farmers Market Offerings
(Drew Saunders, Aug. 6, 2020)
Oak Park, MI- Life is finding a way to go on, despite the coronavirus. The Oak Park Farmer’s Market has found a way to not only open safely, but also replace the normal summer activities that parents would provide for their children through Project Play and the Power of Produce.
Project Play is an option to replace summer camps, sports and other activities that are simply too dangerous during the Covid-19 era. The program started on July 1 and will run through September 30. By attending the farmer’s market, which takes place in the parking lot of Oak Park High School every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., children and seniors alike can get activity packs and a special coupon program to buy fresh, locally sourced produce and baked goods.
When asked if the Power of Produce and Project Play programs were at all a response to the coronavirus, Oak Park Community Engagement and Development Specialist Colton Dale said it partly was. “The recreation department can’t offer as many programs as we used to, so we wanted [to find] ways to fill that void, but do it safely. That’s why the recreation department came up with some creative ways to get people engaged and outside, but to do it in a safe way.”
Based on an original program in Minnesota, Project Play gives children activity packages, with new activities to complete every week, like word puzzles, a soccer ball and scavenger hunts. That way kids will have something to do on their own, during the summer months.
“My baby is at home, we’re bored. We go to the park, but we’ve been doing that every other day,”
Parent and Royal Oak resident Constance Jones said. And with all other activities closed or dangerous, Jones and her daughter Kinslee decided to go for it. “She is so excited. She loves fruit and vegetables.”
It’s sister program, Power of Produce, is available for both children and seniors. Children get to complete word puzzles, drawings and educational material on how food is grown. For the seniors it’s crossword puzzles along with nutrition education.
“What we’ve done is that for kids who sign up, there’s little activities that we give them in a sanitized bag. Every week that they do their homework and bring it back, I give them three dollars to spend on fresh produce,” Oak Park Recreation Coordinator Maralee Rosemond said. “They can buy whatever they want to with those three dollars.”
Families can come from anywhere to sign up. One parent brought her kids in from as far away as Sterling Heights, Wednesday.
Oak Park’s Farmer’s Market has moved to a larger location recently, in the high school’s parking lot. Huama Inc sponsors the farmers market and also co-sponsored Project Play and Power of Produce, along with Beaumont Community Health, according to Rosemond.
“It’s beautiful. There’s a ton of different vendors [and] produce. I’m really surprised and happy how many kids are here and how many families,” Zahrah Khan said.
Social distancing has spaced the stalls out significantly. But despite this, and the occasional hand washing stall, life is continuing as normal. A steady stream of customers came, July 29, for fresh vegetables, baked goods and condiments, like Delphine Drake’s DnV Jamaican seasonings.
“It’s pretty good,” Drake said. “I like the way they have their signs and covid-19 precautions, and hand washing.”
Both programs are being supported, in various ways, by the Detroit City Football Club; Playworks – a California-based non-profit that promotes and provides opportunities to build social skills through playing; the Downtown Boxing Gym; and the Detroit Pistons.
Detroit City FC co-owner Sean Mann said his organization was happy to provide stickers, training content and an “advisory role” to the effort.
“It’s a tough summer. Kids are home with their parents, who are trying to work and it’s something nobody has ever experienced before. That’s what I love about this program. Everyone came together and said ‘we’ve all got these amazing professionals and skill sets. How can we actually work together to give something to families who might have run out of ideas?’” Playworks Regional Partnerships Manager Whitney Bunn, said. “Being able to offer different opportunities to go outside, play, be a kid. They’ve gone through so much trauma, with being ripped away from their peers, schools and being able to interact with their classmates. So any way that we can support those social and emotional skills, and prevent any more negative experiences is something that we’re excited to be apart of.”