Farmers markets in seven N.C. counties are making it easier for lower income households to buy and eat fresh fruits and vegetables. A pilot program is linking three USDA-affiliated food assistance programs — for senior citizens, WIC (Women, Infants and Children program) clients, and participants in Food and Nutrition Services (formerly known as food stamps) — to encourage and enable them to use any of their benefits at the participating farmers markets.
“We know that access to healthy food is critically important to improving health outcomes,” said state Health and Human Services Secretary Lanier Cansler. “This is a great example of how state agencies, non-profits and communities can work together to decrease barriers so many North Carolinians face to living a healthy lifestyle.”
An estimated 28 farmers markets across the state allow FNS participants to use their benefits cards for food purchases. In addition, WIC and Senior food programs offer coupons to their clients for shopping at selected farmers markets. Agriculture and health officials say that jointly promoting all three programs and providing consistent nutrition education messages through the N.C. Farmers’ Markets Nutrition Program pilot project may make lower income families more aware of farmers markets in their communities and encourage them to include the markets part in their regular shopping routine.
“In these seven counties, we anticipate reaching more than 50,000 people and at least 200 farmers selling locally grown produce,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “By bringing these programs together, we are helping individuals stretch their food dollars and support their local farmers too.”
The participating farmers markets are:
- Carrboro Farmers’ Market in Orange County
- Columbus County Community Farmers Market in Whiteville
- Lexington Farmer’s Market in Davidson County
- Onslow County Farmers Market in Jacksonville
- Salisbury Farmers Market in Rowan County
- Watauga County Farmers’ Market in Boone
- Yancey County Farmers Market in Burnsville
The N.C. Farmers’ Markets Nutrition Program pilot project is made possible by linking the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and the 21st Century Farmers’ Markets Program through support from the divisions of Public Health, Aging and Adult Services, and Social Services, all in the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services; the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the statewide non-profit, Leaflight. For more information about participating in any of these programs, contact your local health department or the state Division of Social Services.
The N.C. Farmers’ Markets Nutrition Programs pilot project will continue throughout the summer and will be evaluated for future expansion.
— Information from N.C. Department of Health and Human Services