The Farmers Market is a place for people to gather and enjoy healthy, locally-grown food in the summer. But it is inaccessible to many low income Boulder residents due to the high price of produce. As KGNU’s Sarah Dalgleish reports, the Boulder County Farmers Market is trying to remove that barrier with the WIC voucher program that currently helps 609 low-income families get food from the market.
Eligible families are at or below 185% of the federal poverty line and have children ages 6 months to 5 years. Every farmers market, they receive $20 in vouchers that can be redeemed for fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, and cheese.
“We’ve done surveys and the vast majority of individuals have indicated that the consumption of fruits and vegetables has increased in their daily eating habits and their children are enjoying more fruits and vegetables. Also as parents, they are nourishing themselves so they feel they are better able to address the stresses of parenting” explains Brian Coppom, Executive Director of the Boulder County Farmers Market.
The price difference between grocery stores and the farmers market is a primary reason local produce is often inaccessible to low income families. Coppom explains it costs more because the money goes to pay farmers in the area living wages and because harvesting produce sustainably is more labor intensive. The nutritional value of food grown this way is also higher.
“When you look at the actual nutritional content, we’re finding locally grown produce will be thirty to several hundred percent higher than what you find in the grocery store,” Coppom says.
Mark Guttridge is the farmer at Ollin Farms and has been working with the Boulder County Farmers Market for over a decade. He says there is another benefit he’s seen to the WIC program.
“The markets are getting more diverse. It used to be kind of an elitist thing to go to the farmers market and buy your produce because it was expensive, but now we’re realizing that this is an essential part of the health of our community,” he explains.
Coppom hopes the Boulder County Farmers Market can expand the WIC program in the future to reach more families. He explains “having nutritious food that you actually want to eat shouldn’t be a privilege. That should be a basic right.”