For the past four summers, WCAP’s Early Childhood programs have been collaborating with Midcoast Maine Community Action’s Women’s Infants and Children (WIC) program to bring families to the farmers’ market. From July to October, WIC provides eligible pregnant women and children from 9 months to 5 years Farmers’ Market benefits, in addition to the monthly foods they already receive as a benefit of WIC. The Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is a part of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services with a focus to increase the use of fresh, unprocessed, locally grown fruits and vegetables by WIC participants. Families who qualify for Head Start also qualify for WIC benefits. The Jabine Head Start center in Belfast is less than a mile from the Belfast Farmers’ Market, which happens every
For a trip to the market, WIC meets families at the Head Start center, issues farmers’ checks and then leads the group to the market. After a stop at the information booth and a discussion around cashing benefits, families are then encouraged to explore the market and use their checks. These Farmers’ Market benefits are $20 per person eligible. During our August trip, 11 children and 8 adults, including 3 staff took the trip to the market. WIC Farmers’ Market benefits valued at $180 were issued. This partnership allows families to access locally grown fruits and vegetables, ask questions and learn about seasonality, recipes, and how vegetables are grown. It is an opportunity for them to learn about programs like Maine Harvest Bucks, which allows them to double their SNAP/Food Stamps when shopping at the market, making eating local more affordable.