While most farmers’ markets are a way of supporting local farmers, a series of markets popping up around the state are also a way of supporting low-income households.
The Georgia Department of Public Health is holding markets to get fresh produce in the hands of families enrolled in the federal Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) nutrition program.
John Simmons of Simmons Farms sold bell peppers, blueberries, and watermelons at a WIC farmer’s market on Emery Parkway in Macon recently. Farmers like Simmons were guaranteed a profit, and WIC recipients were guaranteed $30 of produce per person, up to $90 per family.
“Seeing the people and the young people getting the produce, that’s the best thing right here,” Simmons said. “And giving them a little instruction on how to prepare it, you know?
In an air-conditioned building a couple yards away from the market, a WIC nutritionist conducted short classes on food preparation.
“The nutritionist… (is) speaking to them about how to prepare their food, how to wash their food, how to store their food,” Mary Walcott said. Walcott helped oversee the program.
Anne Marie Still enrolled in the WIC program six months ago, following a long labor with her son, Lucas. She said her husband Wayne was terminated for taking three days off to be with her in the hospital. Still said that while she was thankful for WIC, it wasn’t a perfect program.
“I’m not overly fond of inside where they were talking to everybody like they were children who didn’t know how to wash fruits and vegetables,” she said. “But that’s a thing that I’ve noticed over the past six months… people assume that because we’re low income or something bad has happened, and we’ve asked for WIC assistance, that everybody’s who’s on it is just too dumb to know what they’re doing.”
Still said she appreciated the farmers, who are all local and vetted by the state.
“It’s really nice to be a part of this community and have them show up for the community, and not feel like we’ve all been completely abandoned,” Still said.
There will be 16 more pop-up markets like this one across the state, but WIC recipients are only eligible to spend their benefit at one. The final market will return to Macon next month.
You can find the schedule of WIC markets here: 2019 Georgia WIC Farmers Market Schedule.