Young toddlers and children crowded the tents, shuffling and giggling, as they waited for their parents to purchase produce for the family. The Arlington Farmers’ Market was filled with customers who participate in the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) and farmers who were excited to cater to the enormous turn out. Well over 200 families came out in the mid-morning heat of Texas to receive their Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) vouchers.
Through the FMNP, WIC participants are able to access locally grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs that promote the well being and health of themselves and/or their children. Just last year in 2011, 1.9 million WIC participants received FMNP benefits, which, when redeemed, surpassed 16.4 million dollars in total revenue for participating farmers and farmer’s markets.
On hand this day were Ann Salyer-Caldwell, Tarrant County WIC Director, Sam Varela, the FMNP State Director of Texas Department of Agriculture, Kay Dillard, the Director of the Tarrant Area Food Bank, Dorothy “Toni” Savage-Oakford, a community health worker with the Tarrant County Health Department, and Samantha Swain, the local FMNP Coordinator.
Once the participants’ vouchers were processed they began to shop the stands laden with fresh peaches, tomatoes, green bell peppers, squash and a truck filled with watermelons. After checkout, as a result of Ms. Swain’s collaboration with the Tarrant Area Food Bank, participants obtained free infant foods, packaged snacks and other items, which had been made available from the warehouses of the Tarrant Area Food Bank.
Such collaborations are important to ensuring the nutrition of low income women, infants and children. The Farmers Market Nutrition Program is vital to both the WIC participants and to the participating farmers and farmer’s markets. Farmers get additional customers and WIC participants have more nutritious options to feed themselves and their children.
Being able to witness the FMNP program in action was an eye opening experience for me because I got a small glimpse of the number of people who benefit from USDA’s nutrition programs every day across the nation. As we continue to work to feed families in need, we can be assured that somewhere, in the simmering Texas, heat a family in need is benefiting from the nutrition assistance provided by the Farmers Market Nutrition Program.