We are thrilled to announce the launch of a new program at Countryside Farmers’ Markets and partner markets this season! Starting on June 1st, WIC clients can receive $5 in Carrot Cash tokens to spend on farm-fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables at participating markets (find locations here). It’s simple! WIC clients visit the market customer service booth, show their WIC benefits card, and they’ll be given their tokens to spend with farmers.
Countryside’s mission is to connect people, food, and land. To us, this means all people - regardless of income, geography, lifestyle and any other factors. All of Countrysides’ farmers’ markets accept SNAP (food assistance) and offer Produce Perks, a nutrition incentive that matches up to $20 of SNAP dollars spent at markets with additional dollars for the purchase of farm-fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Fresh produce, whether from a market or a grocery store, can be cost-prohibitive, particularly to those on a limited budget. However, fresh produce is also the healthiest food category and increased and diverse consumption has the most potential for impacting health, both short- and long-term. A nutrition incentive helps combat this disparity by supplementing funds specifically for these products. It is also a win for farmers by providing additional dollars to their income streams.
Over the past three years, we have seen another group demonstrate both a need and demand for this kind of support. Starting in 2016, Summit County WIC began offering the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program vouchers. WIC clients are eligible to receive $20 in vouchers to spend on Ohio grown produce. Summit County recipients embraced the program with enthusiasm - WIC distributed their entire allotment of vouchers and saw an exceptional redemption rate. Based on this success, Summit County WIC doubled their funding in the two subsequent years, while maintaining full distribution and increasing redemption rates. The impact has been phenomenal.
Unfortunately, due to the structure of WIC benefits, it is not currently possible for farmers’ markets to access benefits in the same way that we do SNAP benefits. Despite this challenge, we wanted to provide some additional support to WIC clients throughout the main market season. We are grateful for grant support from the Women’s Endowment Fund, Huntington Akron Foundation, Akron Community Foundation, PNC Foundation, and Tuscora Parks Health and Wellness Foundation to be able to offer this program. We hope to use the data collected and demand and impact demonstrated to advocate for solutions to overcome the current obstacles.
We are excited to support WIC clients in including more fresh, healthy, local produce in their diets and lives!