DANBURY, Conn -- Shoppers at the Danbury Farmers' Market are not just able to purchase the freshest fruits and vegetables from Connecticut farms. An on-site nutritionist also offers advice on how to prepare the goodies, both for maximum taste and health benefits. The market runs every Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Kennedy Park in downtown Danbury and is open until October 31.
Heather Peracchio, a registered dietitian nutritionist, provides nutrition information, how to store fruits and vegetables and answers any other questions shoppers might have about their food or their diet.
“The materials we use are all from the U.S. Department of Agriculture,’’ Peracchio said. “We have a great recipe booklet, and all the recipes are based on Connecticut grown food.”
Peracchio often advises shoppers to use the guides to help plan ahead. “People will say I want to buy blueberries,’’ Peracchio said. “The problem is they’re only available in July. You’re not going to get them at this time of year. It’s helpful to take a look ahead of time and know what’s in season.”
At a recent market, shoppers found apples, corn, pumpkins and other late summer and early fall staples. Peracchio provides guidance with different displays throughout the Farmers' Market.
In her displays, Peracchio shows shoppers why it is important to prepare foods properly. “I’ll explain why it’s better to use herbs and spices to flavor food instead of salt or sugar,’’ Peracchio said. “I’ve shown them drinks that have 16 teaspoons of sugar in them, and I’ll show them what 16 teaspoons of sugar look like. They often say that they had no idea it was such a sweet beverage.”
Peracchio works for the University of Connecticut Extension service and also for the Community Health Center in Danbury. She has offered nutritional guidance at the Farmers' Market for five years.
“People have a lot of questions,’’ said Peggy Zamore, Director of the Farmers' Market. “They see something that’s not familiar to them, or think it's too hard to prepare. Heather can make them more comfortable about preparing and eating healthier foods.”
Peracchio says she enjoys seeing the “light bulb moment” when a shopper becomes enlightened. “People will say, 'I didn’t know that,' or 'Thanks for telling me about it,'’’ Peracchio said. “Sometimes people will say their family is now eating a fruit or vegetable they had never tried before. It’s important that they know the nutrition information, but it’s even better to see it in practical application.”
For shoppers’ convenience, Danbury Farmers' Market now accepts debit and credit cards. SNAP benefits and Farmers' Market Nutrition Program vouchers are also accepted and their value doubled up to $9 per market.
For more information on the Danbury Farmers' Market, visit the Danbury City Center website .