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EUFAULA, Ala. — Justice Johnson and Hayden Faircloth walked into Piggly Wiggly, alongside their parents, with a $5 fruit and vegetable voucher in hand. After surveying their options, the two Barbour County third-graders walked out with strawberries and salad mix for dinner that evening. This interaction is not the usual business Piggy Wiggly in Eufaula encounters. However, thanks to a partnership between the store and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, more Barbour County students will be making similar purchases.
The fruit and vegetable vouchers came from Alabama Extension at Auburn University’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education program (SNAP-Ed). This partnership started when Michelle Puckett, the Barbour County SNAP-Ed educator, approached Bryan Milligan, district manager of Piggly Wiggly in Eufaula, about the voucher program.
“During Body Quest, we talk about buying fruits and vegetables at the grocery store often,” Puckett said. “These vouchers give kids a chance to shop for themselves and see all the different things we talk about. Plus, kids love buying stuff with their own money.”
Milligan didn’t shy away from the chance to provide the vouchers. He said he’s aware of the work Puckett does each week in classes in Barbour County and wanted to be part of the solution.
“It seemed like a good opportunity for everyone,” Milligan said. “Michelle started doing food demos in our store more than three years ago with products sold in our store, and we have developed a great working relationship.”
In total, Puckett handed out 160 vouchers to her Body Quest students in Barbour County. Body Quest is a curriculum designed by Auburn University SNAP-Ed that empowers third-grade students and their parents to make healthier choices.
As inspiration for the project, Puckett piggybacked off St. Clair County SNAP-Ed Educator Cindy Harper’s Veggie Bucks idea. Harper provided $2 vouchers at the St. Clair County farmer’s market this past summer. Puckett wanted to provide all students vouchers to give them a sense of ownership over the fruits and vegetables they buy.
“My goal was for the students to go into the grocery store themselves and pick something they like,” Puckett said. “That’s why we put their name on them.”
Puckett said students were excited about the idea. Approximately half of the vouchers were redeemed within the first few weeks. In the future, Puckett would like to hand out vouchers every year to her students and see the vouchers used in more grocery stores in Alabama.
“I think it makes the whole curriculum complete,” Puckett said. “It’s important for them to see what’s in the grocery store and be able to see the difference between specific fruits and vegetables. It also helps them get excited about taking fruits and vegetables home and eating them.”
Johnson’s mother, Terrolyn Johnson, said the lessons her daughter learns in school about nutrition and physical activity are valuable.
“She constantly comes home to tell me about what foods she learned about at school,” Terrolyn Johnson said. “It also allows her to tell us what we are going to eat for dinner and maybe try something new.”
Faircloth’s mother, Erin Faircloth, also said her daughter gets excited after each Body Quest class.
“Every time they have a Body Quest class, we hear about it,” Erin Faircloth said. “She gets really excited to tell me about everything she learns.”
For more information about Auburn University SNAP-Ed, visit www.LiveWellAlabama.com or like and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To contact Puckett, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.