“Willow Comes to WIC” Inspires Children to Try Their Peas with Bunny Juice!
Willow, the gentle, sweet bunny that lives in her burrow at the Concerned Citizens of Ewing WIC Program near Trenton, endeared herself to the staff and families when she made her debut this month. The full program, “Willow Comes to WIC” involves a series of short lessons featuring an introduction via story, poem, rhyme or finger play presented by Willow, the bunny puppet who LOVES her fruits and veggies. The creation of the program was made possible by a generous grant from PepsiCo (makers of Tropicana and Dole Juices).
Willow has no need to sneak into gardens like her relative, Peter Rabbit! She plants her own seeds which grow in a magical garden; in the form of a beautifully hand-painted apron. The apron is complete with pockets for props like sunshine, raindrops, and of course a carrot, to help Willow tell her stories. In addition to engaging the young children in her WIC center with stories, Willow also presents REAL food!
Each educator who is trained to present “Willow Comes to WIC” is also trained in basic culinary and knife skills. Training also includes proper sanitation skills and recipe preparation practice for over 30 different simple recipes.
The program is comprised of twelve short lesson plans (one for each month of the year) that provide fun, hands-on opportunities for children to interact with seasonal produce. These lessons will occur multiple times weekly, over a twelve month time period, as they take young children through an exploration of a variety of fruits and vegetables up close with a magnifying glass and through simple food preparation to taste and enjoy together with Willow. Large, colorful posters of the different featured fruits and veggies adorn the walls - depicting how each one looks while growing on a farm or in an orchard. WIC parents will be given two easy to make recipes to take home each month. The recipes include the use of seasonal produce and indicate steps that are appropriate for children to help with.
The initial pilot program will continue for one year. To evaluate the effectiveness of the program, changes from baseline in percentage of WIC mothers that utilize their fruit and vegetable vouchers will be measured. Additionally, focus groups and questionnaires will used to explore changes in behaviors and attitudes towards usage of fruits and vegetables in the home.