COAL TOWNSHIP - Bushel baskets of fresh fruits and vegetables could be found in the lobby of Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community Hospital (G-SACH) Thursday as part of a new program to promote healthy eating.

The grand opening of the "Get Fresh Market" highlighted a Geisinger program that also features locally grown produce for purchase.

"We've had a great turnout today and we are hoping to have all the items sold before our time is up at 3 p.m.," Rebecca E. Crotti, Healthy Selections coordinator for Geisinger Health System, said shortly after the 11 a.m. start. "The response in the beginning of the day was tremendous."

By noon, the market had already sold out of blueberries, strawberries, peppers and zucchini, and quantities of portabella mushrooms, romaine lettuce, rhubarb, cucumbers and other products were running low.

"All of the items are washed and ready to go," she said.

Crotti said the turnout went beyond employees.

"The community came out to see what we are doing and find out more about healthy eating," she said.

The market debuted at Geisinger Medical Center's Danville campus last summer and is part of Geisinger Health System's Healthy Selections program, which provides guests and employees with healthier dining options at Geisinger locations. It also promotes better eating habits as an important component of a culture of wellness.

Kale, yeah

The Get Fresh Market also provided visitors an opportunity to try something new. Rhonda Duld, a produce specialist with Primo Produce, was preparing a special dish for sampling: kale salad.

"Kale is becoming the new superfood in the produce world, and is very versatile," Duld said. "It can be used in hot and cold applications."

In the lobby, onlookers watched at Duld prepared the salad, dumping the pre-chopped kale into a large bowl.

"When you are chopping your kale, make sure you do into thin ribbons, the thinner and finer the better, because a more coarse kale could get caught in your throat," she cautioned.

She then added a little bit of carrots, cabbage, some dried cherries and blueberries, oranges and a ginger vinaigrette, and a tasty salad was born.

"Using the kale as the greens in the salad really makes it healthy," Duld said. "It's a great source for vitamin C, iron, protein and dietary fiber.

"People are starting to use it in soup, or as a side dish," she continued. "A chef I know gave some kale a quick saute with some olive oil and sea salt and used it as a bed for a good piece of fish."

Second helping

In future markets, an agriculturalist will be on hand to provide information on the importance of sustainable food. Also, a different line up of foods will be available for purchase in future markets.

"We are working to bring more locally grown produce to the market," Crotti said. "We hope to have some corn and different kind of lettuces available, and some more squashes in the coming months. We will bring more variety to the market."

Get Fresh Markets will return to the G-SACH campus on July 24, Aug, 21 and Sept. 18.