If the American Heart Association hoped to get more Rim Country people to eat healthy, its partnership with the Payson Farmers Market exceeded expectations.

The two organizations recently partnered through a grant program to get shoppers to eat healthy. The AHA provided bright red bags, and a grant funded by the Holbrook-Pyle Foundation to cover $20 in coupons to spend at any Payson Farmers Market vendors’ booth.

The program debuted at the July 31 market. Lorian and John Roethlein, market founders and managers, originally intended to keep the program going for weeks by asking shoppers to return with their red bags for more coupons.

“The grant was intended to last until the end of the market, which is mid-September,” said Lorian.

But on the first weekend 270 people blew through the original grant in two hours.

“It was so successful we went way over the $4,000 budget, actually redeeming $5,396 on the very first day,” said Lorian.

She said the vendors had a banner day, “almost as much as opening day.”

By 10 a.m., the bread vendor only had products on one of his two long tables.

The fresh fruit and vegetable vendors had empty baskets.

And prepared food vendors couldn’t offer all their selections.

Over at Valley Keto, chef Sue Curtin and her husband Tom praised the grant program for introducing the Keto philosophy to those who probably would never have come to their booth.

Sue makes no carbohydrate baked goods.

A former Chicago caterer, Sue found Keto due to several health issues. She discovered Keto reduces inflammation, a key to addressing illnesses such as Type II diabetes, heart and circulatory health, plus a host of other health issues.

The secret to the Keto diet is to reduce the amount of carbohydrates in the diet. Carbs turn into sugars during the digestive process. Too much sugar and the body stores it as fat, which creates inflammation. By starving the body of carbohydrates, the idea is the body will turn the fat into glucose. Every cell in the body requires glucose, but too much tips the body’s balance, said Sue.

Most people just cut out all starches, from bread to potatoes and rice to dessert.

But the Curtins refused to live on only protein and vegetables. So, Sue started playing with coconut and almond flours along with alternative sugars.

She now creates cinnamon raisin bread, brownies, and pizza crusts all with materials that do not introduce carbohydrates to the body.

“Coconut and almond flour are expensive,” said Sue.

She was tickled pink older folks who would never spend their own money on her bread came to try it because it was free.

Exactly what Lorian had hoped would happen — inspire the elderly to explore healthy food options.

For the AHA grant program, Lorian focused the market’s message to organizations that specifically focus on seniors, from the Senior Center to churches.

“I saw tons of new faces, a lot of them seniors,” she said.

Despite the grant running out, Lorian and the funders have expanded the offer.

“Instead of $20 in vouchers each week, it will be $10,” said Lorian. “Please bring your red tote bag to the information booth in the center of the Payson Farmers Market to pick up the vouchers. Vouchers will be available as long as supply lasts.”

She’s pretty sure this next funding batch won’t last to the end of August.

The Payson Farmers Market also supports the various other food programs for those who suffer food insecurity from the WIC, or woman, infant and child program to the SNAP or supplemental nutrition assistance program to the SFMNP or seniors farmers’ market nutrition program.

Every Saturday, the Roethleins have a table with information on the various food programs. Those interested can apply on the spot.

The Payson Farmers Market runs every Saturday until mid-September from 8 a.m. until noon in the Sawmill Theatres parking lot near the intersection of Main Street and Highway 87.

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