ESCANABA - Elmer's County Market was abuzz with activity Thursday morning as children, parents, and shoppers joined organizations from across the state to learn about nutrition and physical fitness as part of the Pure Michigan FIT program.
"We're very honored to have Pure Michigan FIT kick off at our store and to be a part of this initiative to help youth live a healthier life," said Rod Stende, general manager of Elmer's County Market. "Here at Elmer's we're always concerned about the youth and we do a lot to support young people in this community and this is just one more way that we can do that."
Pure Michigan FIT is a nutrition and fitness initiative designed to provide tools and resources for families to give children a good start toward a healthy lifestyle. Originally announced in Gov. Rick Snyder's State of the State address last January, the program officially kicked off in mid-June at the Family Fare grocery store in Wyoming, Mich.
Ilsa Matthes | Daily Press
Kids try to guess what fruits and vegetables are inside paper bags at the Pure Michigan FIT event held at Elmer’s County Market Thursday.
"We looked at what role we could play... It helps us promote what the growers are growing as well as getting a good message out to parents with little kids," said Jamie Clover Adams, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Many healthy foods are grown in Michigan. "We have over 200 different crops," said Clover Adams, who added pre-sliced apples and baby carrots are processed in Michigan. "The other thing that we really have an advantage on in Michigan is the processing."
The Elmer's Pure Michigan FIT event is the second of a series of events held in grocery stores across the state. "I think what people don't realize is that a lot of consumers come into the grocery store looking for support and education," said Linda Gobler, president of the Michigan Grocers Association. "We really feel like we're a key component in this whole thing."
Shoppers may not be aware of the services that their grocery stores provide. "Many of our stores have nutritionists on staff," said Gobler. They also provide recipes for healthy dishes.
According to Gobler, shoppers who are interested in being connected with a nutritionist or are interested in a food that isn't available on shelves should just ask. "Ask your store managers. They're always very happy to help," she said.
The United Dairy Industry of Michigan was also on hand with Luther Elliss, former defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions.
"We're here doing two programs today. We're here as part of the Pure Michigan FIT program, the governor's initiative on healthy eating and physical activity, and we're also here because we have a relationship with the NFL - that's why Luther's here today - promoting the same thing," said Ken Reich, executive director of marketing for UDIM.
The second program that the UDIM promoted at the event was Fuel Up to Play 60, a program which awards prizes to children for making healthy choices at school and being active for at least 60 minutes a day.
Jilbert's Dairy joined the UDIM in giving out samples of chocolate milk and smoothies. "It's an honor to even be here and to work with Elmer's because they're such nice people and to be able to do this for the community...," said Gordon Mielke, Jilbert's Dairy sales manager. "It's fantastic."
While UDIM and Jilbert's Dairy representatives handed out samples, Elliss was signing photos and promoting chocolate milk. "They're finding out it's more nutritious and better for you as an athlete to consume it within 30-45 minutes after your intense training program. You have a better absorption rate and it does more for you than Gatorade or any other product," said Elliss.
Outside the store the YMCA promoted physical activity with games for kids. "It's just a kind of a sampling of what we have at the Y," said Barbi Nebel of the YMCA.
For more information about the Pure Michigan FIT program visit www.michigan.gov/puremichiganfit