Farmers Market Programs for WIC, SNAP and the Senior Populations
Make use of programs available to help purchase locally grown produce.
Farmers markets are some of the best places to get local produce, and living in Michigan, there is an abundance of fresh produce to be enjoyed. By shopping at farmers markets you are supporting local farmers, meeting the people who grow your food, and enjoying the freshest, most flavorful produce of the season.
Today, there are programs that allow families to get more fruits and vegetables from the market. If these benefits are used wisely, and produce preserved properly, it can last a long time:
- Hoop Houses for Health: In 2015, 43 farmers and 15 farmers markets took place in Hoop Houses for Health. Through this program eligible families were provided with vouchers that were used to purchase fresh produce at participating markets from farmers that take part in the hoop houses for health program.
- WIC Project Fresh: WIC families can receive a $20 coupon booklet. These coupons can be used at participating markets to purchase eligible, locally grown, fresh unprepared fruits and vegetables.
- SNAP Double Up Food Bucks: Families and individuals who receive SNAP benefits through a bridge card can receive up to $20 worth of fresh fruits and vegetables each market day. Participating farmers markets will match up to $20 of what consumers are planning to spend at the market using their bridge card. For example, if an individual asks to take $15 off their card to purchase SNAP eligible items at the market they will also receive $15 worth of tokens to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. These tokens can be used right away or can be saved to use later.
- Senior Market Fresh: Senior citizens (over age 60) in some counties in Michigan are eligible for $20.00 in coupons for Michigan grown fresh produce at farmers markets. This program is run through the Offices of Services to the Aging. Check with your local Senior Services Agency for more information.
In order to get the most out of these programs:
- Use Hoop Houses for Health vouchers at participating farm stands. This program has the fewest farm participants; by using these vouchers first you will ensure that they don’t go to waste.
- Use Project Fresh coupons at market vendors who are not participating in Hoop Houses for Health and before using Double Up Food Bucks tokens. These coupons expire on October 31, before the Double Up Food Bucks expire.
- Take advantage of Double Up Food Bucks each time you visit the market. Use your SNAP benefits to purchase SNAP eligible items. Save these fruit and vegetable tokens for later in the season if you take advantage of more than one program. As the season winds down, you will be happy that you saved these “bucks” as late summer and fall produce comes into season.
If you’ve ensured that you used all your coupons and tokens, and it seems you have more produce than you can eat, it is time to learn to preserve this food so that you can enjoy it all year long. Here are some tips to help you enjoy all that produce:
- Freezing is an easy method that keeps produce fresh until you are ready to use it.
- Canning allows for you to store produce and have it ready to go when you are. Just make sure to choose the method that is best for the food you are planning to can.
- Drying fresh herbs is a great way to add flavor to meals all year.
When preserving any produce be sure to use a research-based recipe, which will help ensure your food is safe to enjoy for months to come. Michigan State University Extension offers classes and many resources that will help you get the most out of your fresh produce.