The federally-funded Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program, better known in the community as WIC, is making history!  This month, the WIC Program has expanded the foods it offers to include a variety of healthy foods from every food group.  This is the first major change for the WIC Program in its 35 years of serving the community! 

 WIC Logo

 

 

 

 

 

The WIC Program serves nearly 9 million low-income women, infants, and children, providing them with a number of services including breastfeeding support, nutrition counseling, and checks to purchase healthy foods.  Since the WIC Program serves such a large number of families, the potential impact WIC can have on family food choices as well as the general health of the country is great.  

 

Foods that were chosen for WIC families were based on recommendations found in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  The foods offered along with the messages that they send are beneficial for all Americans, not just WIC families.  After all, each of us could use more fiber, additional vitamins and minerals and less saturated fat in our diets.

veggie basket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foods that are now being offered through WIC include fruits, vegetables, whole wheat bread, brown rice, tortillas, baby foods, and a whole lot more!   WIC’s key messages:

 

–          Offer a variety of healthy and appealing foods to your family  

–          Lower the fat: offer fat free or 1% lowfat milk to loved ones over the age of 2

–          Eat more fruits and vegetables—you have always known it is the right thing to do!

–          Make half your grains whole—switch to brown rice and whole wheat bread

–          Drink less juice and sweetened beverages

–          Breastfeed—babies were meant to be breastfed

 

These are messages any family or individual can benefit from.  Which message or messages will you bring home to your family?  We’d love to hear from you!

 

Share on Facebook. and thanks to Kara  for contributing to the blog this week.

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 Sometimes we think farmer’s markets are not cheap and in this economy everyone is watching their budget tightly, however farmers’ markets are beneficial for both your personal finances and for your local economy.  Farmers’ markets provide closer, fresher, and more nutritious foods for just slightly more than or equal to the price of produce at a supermarket. 

 For some neighborhoods in the inner city, supermarkets are usually far away.   If you cannot pay the extra transportation costs, this leaves people with the limited selections offered at small grocery stores, convenient stores and fast food restaurants.   All of these are places where prices are high, products are processed, and fresh fruits and vegetables are poor quality or non-existent.     Since the smaller stores lack the ability to buy in huge quantities like chain supermarkets, they pay more for the products and produce they sell.  Their prices may also be higher due to higher property costs, higher security costs, higher shrinkage (loss of products due to theft and waste), and higher employee turnover, these costs are all pass onto the consumer.

 When a farmers’ market in your community is open, residents should take advantage of the opportunity to buy some of highest quality food available for themselves and for their family.  The farmers do not have to charge for transportation and middle-men costs. In addition, most  of them take WIC and Senior coupons.  Half of them take EBT, and if you are using EBT, check out Boston’s Bounty Bucks’ to find out how you can double your purchasing power!   

Perhaps the most interesting financial benefit of shopping at farmers’ markets is the impact it has on the local economy.  A lot of people don’t think about where their money goes after it is spent.  When you buy produce from supermarkets, the majority of the money you spend goes to the supermarket corporation, whose headquarters may be thousands of miles away.  Only a fraction of every dollar goes back to the farmers themselves.  This is part of the reason why most large farms are subsidized by the government.  They are actually running at a deficit because of the low return they receive for their products.

 When you buy produce directly from the farmers, they get 100% of the money.  They then reinvest a lot of this money back into their local or regional economy.  Small farms are more likely to buy equipment and supplies from other small businesses in the area, and are also providing jobs for local residents.  Local farms stands and businesses are also more likely to stock and sell products from other local merchants.  Since the money you give them stays and re-circulates in your neighborhood, you actually reap more of a benefit from it in the long term. A study by the New Economics Foundation in London found that every pound (or dollar) spent on local goods generates nearly twice as much income for the local economy as money spent in national chain stores

 So contrary to popular belief, farmers’ markets are more beneficial to you than supermarkets.  For the same money that you would spend at the supermarket on produce that has been sitting in warehouses and on trucks, you can by fresh, delicious, and more nutritious produce. Often you can find a greater variety of produce at the farmer’s market, because the grocery store purchases on volume and cannot store different varieties in small quantities.

 Shopping at your local farmers’ markets can impact your health, as we had discussed in one of the past blogs, but it can have an even deeper impact, because you will be helping to support your neighborhood, small farmers, and your wallet! 

 The sight of fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the farm, and the interaction with people who grew them, leaves a good taste in your mouth for the summer, but it might offer a reconnection to nature and to where food actually comes from all year long. 

 Come join us at many of the farmer’s markets in Boston.  Here’s the listing of times,  and location.

June is here, which means that farmers’ markets will soon be opening.  There are more farmers’ markets in Boston than you probably think.   Here is a link to all TWENTY farmers’ markets that will be operating in Boston this summer, including locations, days, times, and what forms of payment they take.  Scroll down to find the Suffolk County (Boston) listing.      

 Due to some great work by various partners in the past two years, ALL Boston farmers markets now take WIC and Senior Coupons.  Additionally, about half also now have electronic bank transfer (EBT) machines to accept food stamps. 

Farmers markets’ provide fresh local produce to neighborhoods that have limited access to this healthy option.  Everyone should have the opportunity to affordable food, and Farmers’ markets help make local organic produce available.  

 Here are a few reasons for selecting locally grown produce and for patronizing farmers’ markets. 

  • The soil and production methods used on smaller farms tend to increase the nutritional quality of the crops

Small farmers are more likely to use organic and sustainable methods of growing.  Studies have shown that roots in organic soil grow deeper than in soil fertilized conventionally.  Deeper roots mean the crops take up and incorporate nutrients more efficiently, which increases their nutritional content.  These methods are also better for the environment because famers use fewer chemicals and practice crop rotation.

  • The produce is allowed to ripen before being picked, which increases its vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content 

Produce allowed to ripen before harvesting has higher amounts of nutrients than the same kind of produce ripened in storage.  The longer a plant is attached to the soil, the more nutrients it can absorb.  The soil and sun also help the plant create more antioxidants.  Local produce is picked when it’s ripe because it doesn’t have to endure long transportation and storage time.

  • The produce  is usually sold with in 24 hours of being picked, which means that it hasn’t had time to lose a lot of those nutrients

Produce starts losing nutrients the moment it is picked.  Did you know that conventional produce travels an average of 1,500 miles to its retail destination?  The journey usually takes between 2-7 days, and then the time spent on the shelf at the store begins.  Local produce at farmers’ markets travels an average of only 50 miles.  The food sold there goes directly from soil to consumers’ hands within a day or two.   So you’ll be able to buy corn on the cob picked that very morning in many Boston neighborhoods later this summer! 

  • Farmers’ markets usually offer more uncommon and interesting selections than conventional markets, so you’re more likely to try a variety of fruits and vegetables. 

More variety means a greater spectrum of new produce for you to try, but also increases your intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.   Produce sold at supermarkets has been chosen for endurance of long transportation and storage.  Local farmers can grow more of a variety thanks to handpicking and the limited shipment involved.  Farmers’ markets in different areas may also exhibit various products appealing to ethnic groups that live in each neighborhood.  This gives an exciting opportunity to discover plants used in other cuisines.  Ask how the farmer how to prepare the new produce if you’re not sure!                                                                       

So as we approach the season, mark your calendar so you can experience the joy of attending a farmer’s market.  Being at the market is also a fun social interaction time with neighbors, friends, family, and the farmers.  All of these factors work together to increase of appreciation and enjoyment of healthy, nutritious, locally grown food!

Special thanks to Rebecca Brotzman for her contribution to this blog!