RIVERSIDE – Of all the tasks they faced last week, most of the youth participating in a supermarket challenge enjoyed one in particular: setting their own prices.
The event was organized by the Riverside Public Library. Young people in sixth through 12th grades were invited to test their knowledge of grocery items at Riverside Foods.
“The kids particularly liked labeling things,” said Anne Huston, children and youth services manager for the library. “They had a labeling gun, and they were labeling items like Arizona iced tea. They had fun with that.”
Each year, the library organizes a community-based scavenger hunt for young people based on the theme of the summer reading program. This year’s theme is “Eat. Read. Love,” so staff members decided to partner with Riverside Foods to emphasize the “eat” part of this theme.
Huston approached Peter Boutsikakis, whose family owns Riverside Foods, earlier this year about staging the event. Boutsikakis said he enjoyed seeing the youths have fun while learning about the foods they eat every day.
“I noticed a couple of kids from around town who often come in here with their parents, or stop in after school to grab a snack, so it was nice to see some familiar faces,” Boutsikakis said. “The nicest part about it was that they were paying attention to things like ingredients and prices. … To learn more about the foods they put in your bodies, to educate themselves about this was wonderful.”
The youths were divided into teams of two to four people at the library, Huston said. Once they arrived at the store, they were quizzed on topics such as who is on a certain cereal box, how much does a particular vegetable weigh or what spice starts with the letter “C,” she said.
The young people then would search the aisles of the store for the products to answer the questions, Huston said. The teams won treats prepared by people at the store, she said.
“They were extremely competitive,” Huston said. “They all wanted to do it all and be the winners.”
The event was designed to be partly educational but mostly fun for the participants, Huston said. For Boutsikakis, this was an ideal way for Riverside Foods to partner with a community institution for the benefit of young people.
“We have a good relationship with the library. Riverside is a small community, and we have to help each other,” Boutsikakis said. “What difference does it make if I stay after for a few hours — except for the [June 17] [Chicago] Blackhawks game? We really have to get symbiotic with other organizations, especially if it has an educational aspect to it. That’s so important.”