I recently visited the Park Heights Community Farmers’ Market in Baltimore, Maryland. At USDA we’re enthusiastic about farmers markets because they help fulfill two of our primary missions – promoting good nutrition and supporting United States agriculture, especially family farmers. Farmers’ markets also boost local communities through increased outlets for local farmers.
Park Heights is one of nine farmers’ markets in Maryland to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and one of 97 that accept WIC and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program checks. Like thousands across the country, the Park Heights market provides access to farm-fresh, affordable foods for low-income individuals, seniors, children and families.
Increasing the number of farmers’ markets that participate in our federal nutrition programs, especially SNAP, is a priority for USDA because farmers markets help introduce low-income families to a wide variety of nutritious foods and help them get into the habit of making healthier choices.
I am pleased to say that over the past five years, the number of farmers’ markets participating in SNAP has increased by 250 percent, with over 1100 farmers markets participating nationwide.
Farmers’ market foods are also important in getting our youngest children off to a healthy start – even before they are born. In Maryland, more than 42,000 WIC participants have access to fresh, healthy food through the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which serves low-income pregnant women, nursing mothers, their infants, and young children.
Nearly 7,000 low-income seniors in Maryland have used Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program benefits at local markets.
I really enjoyed my time at the Park Heights Community Farmers Market. When I think about the time I lived in Maine, Oregon and Iowa, I remember the delicious blueberries, crisp pears and fresh sweet corn – all grown locally. Hopefully, working together, we can help ensure that all Americans can experience the health and well-being that comes with supporting farmers markets.