Annual farmers market for special nutrition program opens in Central Georgia
This summer, several local farmers markets will serve women, infants and children as part of a supplemental nutrition program that helps feed close to 200,000 people every month. The farmers markets run statewide from May through September.
WIC farmers markets in Central Georgia begin this week as part of the annual program sponsored by the state public health department and the USDA.
Mary Walcott is the WIC program coordinator for Bibb County, which will host its market from July 24 to July 28.
"How I always explain it to my participants is the farmer's market is a special time where we give you extra money allotted at no cost to you for your family," Walcott said.
In May of this year, over 15,000 people in Bibb County recieved benefits through WIC.
Each WIC participant is eligible for $30 in vouchers to spend on fresh produce at the markets. WIC participants will need to pick up these special vouchers at their local health department before shopping.
Although Georgia replaced paper WIC vouchers with electronic benefit cards last year to make grocery shopping easier, Walcott said logistical issues means the state will likely wait until next year to roll those out for farmers market purchases.
"In some sense, the card will be a new challenge," Walcott said. "Right now, with the checks, they just hand it to the farmer."
Logistics were also the culprit behind Georgia's delay in implementing the electronic WIC model, which has proven in other states to increase overall participation in the supplemental nutrition program.
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Walcott said at some markets this summer, vendors may also accept payment through another federally funded program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
A full calendar of markets happening in the North Central public health district can be found on the agency's website.