(Jan. 18) Rochester, N.Y.-based retail grocer Wegmans Food Markets Inc. has a new incentive program for cub or brownie scouts who choose to snack on carrots rather than cookies.

The supermarket chain has announced a healthier eating and lifestyle choices program called “Veggie Patch,” which seeks to steer children toward eating more fruits and vegetables.

One key to getting kids to make such choices may be found in the way the program works, that is, in the fact that Veggie Patch lets kids cook their own food. In-store classes at six Wegmans stores in New York have scouts cooking spaghetti squash and layering fresh fruit parfaits.

“If kids make a dish themselves, they’ll often try something they’d ordinarily reject,” said Wegmans manager of fresh meal solutions Nella Neeck in a news release Jan. 16.

Wegmans said the Veggie Patch classes cost $10 per child — money which is often provided by troop leaders and gained from earlier, unrelated fund raisers — and that the scout-specific focus arose because the company realized partnering with groups that already worked with kids made sense.

“The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were both very supportive and worked with us to design a program for their Brownies and Cubs, ages 6 to 8,” said Neeck.

The Veggie Patch program rewards scouts with special badges for participation in classes that, in addition to cooking, feature recipe books and tracking sheets for kids to make sure they are eating “a rainbow every day” in line with the proper proportions.

“How much? We say, eat 5 ‘fists’ a day,” said Neeck. “It helps children understand portion size. We also talk about what makes foods healthy or not healthy.”

Wegmans said that the program will eventually expand from New York to select stores in New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia. More information can be found on the Veggie Patch program by calling Consumer Affairs at (585) 464-4760.