Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Government Food Program Goes L-O-C-A-Vore

Photo (iStockPhoto-Kelly Cline): Farmers Market Produce

A year ago, I published an article in Mother Earth News, about the Womens Infants and Childrens (WIC) and Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program, "Government Program Makes Healthy Food a Viable Option" . The piece built upon a policy brief that I wrote as part of Thomas Forster's New School class on Food Policy about the seasonal farmers market coupons many states, including New York, offer residents in federal and state funded programs (the Farmers Market coupons are a tiny, but important, part of the overall WIC package of food).

This week, I got an email from New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Director of Communications announcing that New York is the FIRST state to include farmers markets in the monthly WIC food check program not just the small coupon program -- now over 520,000 New York Moms have a lot more purchasing power to buy locally grown, season produce at the farmers market. Needy moms no longer have to settle for tasteless tomatoes, canned veggies and produce shipped from far away lands at the big box supermarkets if they don't want to. Farmers’ Market Federation Executive Director Diane Eggert sums it up nicely "It's a win-win for everyone" -- at risk mothers, their children AND farmers!!!


New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker said: “Increasing access to affordable, nutritious and fresh produce is a top priority of the Governor’s Council on Food Policy and today we are doing just that. By enabling WIC moms and children to use their monthly food dollars at farmers’ markets throughout the State, we are providing them with a means to purchase fresh, locally grown produce that they may otherwise not be able to afford. This program will also help direct more business to local farmers, which in turn helps our local economy.”

New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., said: “This change is coming at a time when childhood obesity is one of our greatest public health challenges. Increasing WIC participants’ access to fresh vegetables and fruits will help to improve the health of our most vulnerable citizens and reduce their risk of chronic diseases by supporting healthy lifestyles beginning in pregnancy and early childhood.”

Farmers’ Market Federation Executive Director Diane Eggert said: “The new WIC vegetable and fruit check program represents a tremendous opportunity. Farmers have a chance to share their farm products with a new customer group, increasing their awareness of the quality, diversity and abundance of New York grown foods, as well as increasing farm income. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

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