Tuesday, August 07, 2012

WASHPO | Ward 8 farmers market helps local food assistance users one voucher at a time

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By Published: July 31 
Sarah Leach is used to eating canned fruits and vegetables — when she can get them. But for the first time last weekend, the pregnant 15-year-old from Congress Heights traveled to a farmers market to pick fresh peaches, plums and corn straight from wooden crates. 
The Prince George’s County Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food assistance program was at the Ward 8 farmers market on Mississippi Avenue SE distributing $20 bonus vouchers to Leach and other clients, a once-a-year event. 
On top of that, the farmers market was handing out bonus bucks for every dollar the clients spent, up to $25. By the end of Leach’s shopping trip, she had spent nearly $50 and had decided to return as frequently as possible to buy healthier food for herself and her baby.
“It’s like you’re getting your money back and you can get more,” Leach said of the bonus bucks. 
Leach and other area residents on food assistance programs who do not always have access to fresh, locally grown produce are exactly the people the Ward 8 farmers market hopes to keep reaching. 
Only 32 percent of Ward 8 residents consume fruits and vegetables, one of the lowest rates of all the wards, according to a 2010 report on obesity by the District’s Department of Health. Last year, the market started a partnership with the Wholesome Wave Foundation, which helps bring healthy food into underserved neighborhoods, allowing customers using vouchers to double the value of their purchases for up to $25 every Saturday.

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