Program offers free produce to families with young children
From The Doctor Yum Project
On a mission to help encourage those area families receiving benefits from the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program to establish healthy eating habits, The Doctor Yum Project, Farmers Markets and the Rappahannock Area Health Department are entering their second summer of offering families with young children access to free fresh produce all summer long. The program, which had a successful start last summer, has been funded for another season through the Virginia Department of Health. WIC participants can pick up their Produce Packs, free sample bags of fresh produce, during scheduled appointments through August 18, 2017 at participating local WIC offices.
“Before this program, we did not have a formal way to introduce WIC recipients to the rich food culture at our area farmers markets. Last year, there were hundreds of produce packs delivered and we were able to reach over 90% of the people receiving WIC to provide them with fresh local foods and healthy nutrition information,” says Christy Redmond, WIC Coordinator, Rappahannock Area Health District. “This is a success, and we are encouraged that our community partnerships are showing collective impact.”
Each reusable bag is filled with fresh vegetables, and can be re-filled up to three times for free at the Farmers Market through September 10, 2017. WIC participants who received a Produce Pack in the summer of 2016 can also receive up to three free refills at participating Farmers Markets through September 10. Each WIC family is eligible to receive a Produce Pack, which is a bag filled with 3-4 types of seasonal produce such as tomatoes, kale, onions, peppers, and zucchini during scheduled appointments at WIC offices before August 18, and then they can take it to the Farmers Market up to three times to have it refilled at no cost. Each Produce Pack is presented by WIC Nutritionists and Dietitians and includes a flyer from The Doctor Yum Project that offers tips for storage and use, as well as a healthy recipe that is convenient, budget friendly, and delicious.
Produce Packs are assembled by Chaplin Youth Center volunteers at St. George’s Episcopal church in downtown Fredericksburg, where a local farmer delivers hundreds of pounds of fresh produce. The packs can be refilled at the farmers markets held at: Hurkamp Park, Gordon Road Commuter Lot, Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, and King George Middle School.
The Doctor Yum Project also helps provide nutrition information by having posters in the WIC exam rooms, providing training to WIC staff, providing outreach materials, and having an easy-to-use website. To help make cooking at home more convenient, delicious, and affordable, they have created the Meal Maker Machine. The free tool on their website allows families to create healthy recipes based off the foods they already have on hand and funding has also helped to translate the website into Spanish.
“The more tools and information that families have for making healthy and affordable meals at home, the more empowered families will feel in establishing healthy eating habits,” added Heidi DiEugenio, Director of the Doctor Yum Project. “Our mission is to help families in the area get healthier, one meal at a time.”
This summer the Doctor Yum Project, Virginia Community Food Connections, and Central Rappahannock Regional Library are also joining forces for the third year to introduce young readers to healthy eating. When children enroll in Summer Reading at Central Rappahannock Regional Library they can earn a five dollar coupon for the Farmers Market which can be redeemed to purchase fresh produce at any of the five market locations in Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania or King George Counties. In the past, the organizations discovered that many kids who redeemed and used to purchase fresh produce with their tokens were first time shoppers to the farmers market.
“This is a great way to expose new families to the affordable fresh produce and other locally-produced foods that the farmers markets have to offer. It’s a fun, free, weekly family activity that connects kids with where food comes from and extends the educational experience of the summer reading program. Kids feel empowered to make healthy choices with the coupons and feel proud of their reading accomplishment,” says Elizabeth Borst, Healthy Food Incentive Program Director for Virginia Community Food Connections. Regional Farmers Markets also welcome SNAP EBT and double SNAP spending through Virginia Fresh Match.
To learn more about Virginia Community Food Connections, an organization that connects the community to fresh produce, visit http://www.thefarmersmarket.co/. To learn more about the summer reading program and how kids can earn farmers market coupons visit www.librarypoint.org. To stock up on amazing educational books for your own summer reading collection, visit the Doctor Yum Project’s Virtual Book Fair at www.doctoryum.org. Your purchase helps the Doctor Yum Project stock up on books for their educational programs.