GOVERNOR PATERSON ANNOUNCES WIC CHECKS NOW ACCEPTED FOR FRESH PRODUCE AT NEW YORK FARMERS’ MARKETS
New York is First State in the Nation to Allow WIC Recipients to Buy Farmers’ Market Food
Program Will Increase Access to Fresh, Nutritious Food for Women and Children
Governor David A. Paterson today announced that participants in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program can now use their monthly checks at New York farmers’ markets to purchase eligible fresh produce. New York is the first state in the nation to allow the use of WIC checks for fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets.
“Making farmers’ market produce available to WIC recipients is good for New York’s families and New York’s farmers. There are not enough healthy food options in many urban and rural communities throughout the State and that lack of affordable, nutritious food is hurting the health of New Yorkers,” said Governor Paterson. “This program will expand access to healthy food for some of the most vulnerable women, infants and children across the State.”
A pilot program conducted in 2006 by the Department of Health showed that WIC participants prefer fresh produce over canned or frozen products when fresh is available. In New York, approximately 520,000 women, infants and children participate in the WIC program every month. The program received approximately $420 million in funding from the federal United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) this year and is administered by the New York State Department of Health’s Division of Nutrition.
This effort complements Governor Paterson’s Healthy Food/Healthy Communities Initiative, which uses comprehensive strategies to expand access to fresh, nutritious food in underserved communities. The highlight of that initiative is the creation of a $10 million State revolving loan fund to help finance the construction of food markets in underserved communities, and was created in response to concerns that New Yorkers lack access to fresh, affordable foods. Research shows that the presence of fresh food options in communities helps people maintain a healthy weight and eat more fruits and vegetables.
The WIC program enhancement was recommended by The New York State Council on Food Policy and its implementation is a collaborative effort by the New York State Department of Health, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, and the Farmers’ Market Federation of New York.
New York State Council on Food Policy Chairman and New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker said: “Increasing access to affordable, nutritious and fresh produce is a top priority of the Governor’s Council on Food Policy and today we are doing just that. By enabling WIC moms and children to use their monthly food dollars at farmers’ markets throughout the State, we are providing them with a means to purchase fresh, locally grown produce that they may otherwise not be able to afford. This program will also help direct more business to local farmers, which in turn helps our local economy.”
New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., said: “This change is coming at a time when childhood obesity is one of our greatest public health challenges. Increasing WIC participants’ access to fresh vegetables and fruits will help to improve the health of our most vulnerable citizens and reduce their risk of chronic diseases by supporting healthy lifestyles beginning in pregnancy and early childhood.”
Farmers’ Market Federation Executive Director Diane Eggert said: “The new WIC vegetable and fruit check program represents a tremendous opportunity. Farmers have a chance to share their farm products with a new customer group, increasing their awareness of the quality, diversity and abundance of New York grown foods, as well as increasing farm income. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
WIC is a Federal program that provides grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk. Each month, WIC provides breastfeeding women a $10 check for vegetables and fruits; pregnant and postpartum women receive $8 and children between ages one and five receive $6. For more information about WIC benefits and eligibility, visit http://www.health.state.ny.us/prevention/nutrition/wic/.
The New York State Council on Food Policy is tasked with establishing new food policies for the State that will help ensure the availability of safe, fresh, nutritious and affordable food for all New Yorkers, and expanding agricultural food production. Each December the Council delivers a report to the Governor recommending, among other things, the many ways that New York State can strengthen agricultural food production, address diet-related health and nutrition concerns and promote awareness of the environmental, economic and health benefits of agriculture. For more information about the New York State Council on Food Policy, visit http://www.nyscfp.org/.