This summer, Ohio State University Extension (OSUE) Cuyahoga County piloted the WIC Perks program in partnership with MetroHealth-Cuyahoga County Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and local farmers’ markets. WIC Perks is an expansion of the Produce Perks nutrition incentive program, which offers Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients a dollar-for-dollar match when shopping with an Ohio Direction Card at local farmers’ markets. Four local markets in Cuyahoga County participated in the pilot program; Lakewood Farmers’ Market, Old Brooklyn Farmers’ Market, North Union Farmers’ Market at Shaker Square, and North Union Farmers’ Market at Van Aken.
Historically, the Produce Perks program has only served families who receive SNAP benefits. However, many families in Cuyahoga County do not fall within 130% of the poverty line and therefore have been unable to access Produce Perks. The WIC Perks pilot program expanded Produce Perks to serve families receiving WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) vouchers in addition to SNAP; eligibility for WIC requires families to fall within 185% of the poverty line. By expanding Produce Perks to serve WIC FMNP, recipients we were able to reach new families who may or may not also be receiving SNAP benefits.
The WIC Perks pilot aimed to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for WIC recipients, engage new families, and increase sales at local farmers’ markets. WIC recipients who attended one of the eight select Cuyahoga WIC FMNP distribution dates were given the opportunity to participate in a brief cooking demonstration or educational table activity. In exchange for their participation, families received an additional $20 farmers’ market voucher that could be spent on fresh, local fruits and vegetables. Participants also received culinary tools including peelers, cutting boards, storage containers, dry and liquid measuring cups, and vegetable scrub brushes.
Over the course of the pilot program Ohio State University Extension provided $13,640 worth of farmers’ market vouchers to 682 families. Formal data analysis using farmers’ market redemption data, customer shopping patterns, and follow-up surveys from participants will be conducted in December. Pilot findings will be shared in early 2020. The partners intend to continue the WIC Perks program in 2020. Follow this link to lean more.
Article courtesy of:
Amanda Osborne, Community Development Educator, OSU Extension Cuyahoga County
Courtney Woelfl, Family Consumer Science Educator, OSU Extension Cuyahoga County