Trigg County youth trekked to downtown Cadiz this past month in search of Wally Cat, a University of Kentucky-affiliated mascot who encouraged them to eat their fruit and vegetables.

They found him at Cadiz City Hall, at storefronts along Main Street and at the Cadiz-Trigg County Farmer’s Market; he’ll be there again this month, sharing his lessons in healthy eating.

“This is just something for them and their parents to do together,” observed Relissa Torian of the youth program.

Torian is the nutrition education program/SNAP education assistant for Trigg County Cooperative Extension Service, and for the past few weeks she’s been encouraging the youth to try the produce featured at her table in the farmer’s market — the sweet corn and cabbage, peaches, peppers and green beans.

In the midst of COVID-19, Torian can’t hand out samples as she once did, but she still talks a good talk about vegetables.

“We just politely suggest that they politely give it a try,” she says of her methods, explaining that “it’s not about forcing them to do it. It’s about encouraging them to give it a try.”

The young participants play Wally Cat-themed games and puzzles, learn about making healthy choices at mealtime and are given easy, healthy recipes they can try making at home.

Each Wednesday at the farmer’s market, Torian sets up her table and provides activities for the youngsters who drop by — teaching them the importance of healthy eating and exercise.

July’s participants got to take part in a scavenger hunt and search the community for Wally Cat, although Torian says this month’s youth may do something besides a scavenger hunt.

Youth who completed the program received a goodie bag of items including a water bottle, toothbrush and toothpaste, a jump rope and an issue of a fun cooking magazine for families.

They also received $5 worth of youth market bucks to spend on produce while perusing the downtown farmer’s market.

Torian said 33 Trigg County youth took part in July, and those who didn’t get their goodie bags may pick them up today at the market or call Torian to pick them up at the extension office.

Torian said she enjoys interacting with the families she meets at the farmer’s market, and she wants people to be healthy.

It takes the families and a bit of planning to do that, Torian observes, adding that the youth and their parents can hopefully incorporate some of the things they’ve learned from Wally Cat in their homes, working it out at a slower pace as a family.

Torian notes that the SNAP program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is improving the health and well-being of families, and she said Wally Cat is a part of that.

The UK feline encourages both healthy eating and physical activity; without getting up and moving, people are missing out on half of their development, according to Torian.

She notes that she and Wally have spent quite a bit of time together in the past month. He stands next to her tent at the Cadiz-Trigg County Farmer’s Market, holding a watermelon slice and a head of broccoli in his quest for better health.

“He’s a cardboard cutout, and he stands tall. I always tell him he’s the best date I had; he never misbehaves,” quips Torian.

Individuals may contact Torian at 270-522-3269.

Trigg County Cooperative Extension is located on Hopkinsville Road, in the Farm Bureau building off the bypass in Cadiz.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

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