Hether Frayer (pictured above) has set out to prove that a sprinkling of fairy dust, at least when it comes to food, is healthy for us all. With the support of a Good Neighbor Grant from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, Frayer is on a mission to use fresh food to improve the health of children in Kalamazoo County.
Frayer is the owner of Fresh Food Fairy, one of Michigan's new L3C organizations that bridge the gap between the nonprofit and for-profit worlds. In her persona as the Fresh Food Fairy, Frayer works in classrooms and school cafeterias, primarily with students in kindergarten through middle school. She also does kids' after-school workshops and chef demos for adults.
"The idea was born at one of the Community Foundation's ChangeMakers workshops," says Frayer. "I began doing programs in the fall of 2011. My goals is to encourage good nutrition by making fresh food fun. I show kids that it is colorful and has cool shapes, interesting textures and yummy flavors, and helps us grow strong and smart."
"My presentations are always hands-on," she continues. "When Kalamazoo teachers invite me to their classrooms, I work with them to incorporate age-appropriate activities. For example, the kids love power-crunching green beans and making veggie faces. Having fun helps them create positive associations with fresh food, making it more likely that they'll eat it when they can."
Frayer has a goal of reaching 25 classrooms and 450 students this year. To accomplish this, she purchases seasonal fruits and vegetables from local farms whenever possible. "My main push is in the fall when there's a lot of locally grown produce being harvested," she says. "That's the freshest available, and it's the best tasting and best for the economy. Plus, I want to expose kids to food that's grown right here."
In addition to the Community Foundation, Frayer's partners include Fair Food Matters, People's Food Co-op and the Sustainable Communities Initiative for the Vine and Edison neighborhoods. Even with this support, she understands she's in an uphill battle. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of overweight children has doubled and overweight adolescents has tripled since 1980.
"The domestic food and beverage industry spends billions of dollars a year on marketing mostly junk food," Frayer explains. "This is beginning to change a little, but few people are doing much to encourage kids to eat healthier. So as the Fresh Food Fairy, my main job is to be a spokeswoman for fresh fruits and vegetables. I want kids to think apples are as much fun as sugar-coated cereal!"