Nourish bringing healthy 'play' grocery to Sheboygan children's museum

Instead of filling their carts with boxed meals and canned goods, children playing at Above and Beyond will soon have access to good food — fake as it may be.

Through a partnership with the Sheboygan non-profit Nourish, the children's museum is replacing its dated play grocer with an "old world" series of carts and stands full of fake fruits, vegetables, and other "good" ingredients.

“We noticed the grocery store and, although it was very popular here, we noticed it had a lot of processed food on the shelves,” Heather Cleveland, executive director of Nourish, said.

Cleveland was inspired to approach Above and Beyond with a vision for a new interactive, educational food exhibit.

The "Good Food Marketplace" will be moved from the second floor to the third floor, a space dubbed "Old World Sheboygan" that also includes an old-world classroom, the "port of Sheboygan" ship, sailboat, and lighthouse and a vintage fire truck.

The second floor has been transformed into a circus-themed space, with the former grocery store transformed into a magic show and puppet show play space.

“The old marketplace was very popular with the kids, but Heather had come in and noticed all the food in the grocery store was processed foods,” said Above and Beyond Children's Museum Director Emily Rendall-Araujo. “We thought it could use a refresh with real ingredients that hadn’t been processed to get kids thinking about food.”

The new grocery store will feature a selection of healthy ingredients that Cleveland hopes will inspire the children to eat healthier even once they leave the museum.

“We are trying to do it in a fun way by partnering with Above and Beyond Children’s Museum,” Cleveland said. “We aren’t coming at them and saying ‘you have to eat your apples!’ Because I don’t think that works too well.”

Cleveland also envisions holding programs in the space once a month to educate children — and parents — about healthy food.

One program, the Grocery List Challenge, would challenge children to find ingredients on a shopping list, challenging kids to weigh produce and search for key ingredients.

"More people began working in the 70’s and 80’s, so we turned to processed, convenient foods," Rendall-Araujo said. "Now the pendulum is swinging toward healthy foods, so how can we get kids thinking about learning to cook and what cooking really is beyond just opening a jar of marina sauce and boiling noodles?”

The space is currently slated for June 2018 opening to coincide with the first day of the farmer’s market at Fountain Park in Sheboygan.

"I’ve been a huge supporter of Nourish and what they are trying to do. It’s a great partnership and makes a lot of sense," Rendall-Araujo said. "I’m excited about the greater impact we can have by working together.”