By: Amber Jekot, Food Planning Task Force Organizer
The Texas Hunger Initiative and Bethel Erickson-Bruce with the Waco Downtown Farmers Market have been in conversation with the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) about the possibility of bringing the Farmers Market Nutrition Program to the city of Waco.
The Farmers Market Nutrition Program provides vouchers to WIC eligible women and children for fruits and veggies that can be redeemed at a TDA approved Farmers Market. Vouchers of a $20 value are provided as an addendum to the actual amount of WIC money allotted per client. These vouches can help encourage healthy consumption for Texas’ women and children. TDA would partner with a local non-profit called a contracting entity and a Farmers Market Association to implement the FMNP.
We believe this program would be an asset for the Waco community. Fresh produce helps meet the nutritional needs of children during their most crucial period of brain development – the first 1000 days of their life. Proper nutrition also sets the stage for better education outcomes for our children. This program is also an effective way to encourage small businesses/small farmers and generates more funds to our local economy – one of the Food Planning Task Force’s work group strategies.
In Tarrant County, Fort Worth, the Farmers Market Association made $53,000 for only 9 produce distributions. The farmers shared that they often made more money selling to WIC clinics for 2 ½ hours than they did selling at the local farmers market all weekend. Our hope is to provide Waco’s farmers with this same opportunity.
Although this is not something THI and the Waco Downtown Farmers Market are able to pursue at this point, we think this program would be a huge asset to WIC recipients, farmers, and the local economy. Our hope is that the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program will flourish in Waco in the near future.
Special thanks to Jeremy Everett, Eric Weeden, Kathy Krey, Shamethia Webb, Doug McDurham, and Bethel Erickson-Bruce for their efforts to bring such a promising program to Waco, Texas.