Cross-Posted from the Know Your Farmer Know Your Food Blog
I recently participated in the launch of a Fruit and Veggie Rx program in Portland, Maine. It is a promising health initiative, led by the nonprofit Wholesome Wave, that allows physicians to track the overall well-being of at-risk patients after prescribing more fruits and vegetables to family diets. In Portland, the pilot will focus on Somali refugee women at extremely high risk for diabetes as they transition to healthful diets. The initiative is a good example of partners working together to encourage and support efforts to address both hunger and obesity in our communities. Farmers markets can and are playing a key role in this effort.
USDA has worked hard to integrate the popular farmers market model into our nutrition assistance programs so that everyone has access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The launch of the Portland market brought together representatives from communities and organizations across Maine who shared their experiences organizing farmers markets. I was struck by the common theme that this isn’t just about building farmers markets . This is about building communities.
I was pleased to learn that funds from the Recovery Act helped six markets purchase wireless Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) systems which give low-income families access to fresh local produce. A representative from the Skowhegan Market told the group that wireless EBT capability could double or triple SNAP EBT redemptions.
Our visit also included a stop at the Boyd Street Urban Farm, a collective of immigrant and refugee farmers. It was a great opportunity to see our SNAP EBT and WIC programs at work, particularly some of the innovative efforts and nutrition incentives I had been hearing about all morning. I enjoyed being part of the excitement of the dozens of young growers and volunteers who joined me in the official ribbon cutting ceremony and launch of the Rx Program.
A visit to your local farmers market reinforces what we at the USDA have been saying – it takes all of us working together. Just ask the folks in Maine.