Farmers' Market Nutrition Program
Low-income mothers who shop at the WIC food centers on Chicago's South Side now have the chance to buy fresh vegetables grown in Chicago community gardens and to pick up tips on nutrition and cooking with fresh produce.
The Farmer's Market Nutrition Program is a joint effort of University of Illinois Extension and the Illinois Department of Public Health WIC program. Six community vegetable gardens supported by the Extension Urban Gardening Program provide the WIC food center with a variety of fresh vegetables and fruit. In the past, examples of vegetables have been green beans, sweet potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, tomatoes, and green peppers. Also fresh fruit like peaches, melons and apples have been provided.
WIC recipients can redeem WIC food coupons for the vegetables, as well as for fresh fruits. Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) staff visit the WIC center twice a week to present cooking demonstrations and offer recipes that feature zucchini, tomatoes and green peppers. The EFNEP staff also provides nutrition information to WIC participants and their children.
"Many of the WIC participants have never tasted fruits and vegetables fresh from the garden," said Willene Buffett, Unit Leader. "This program introduces them to new, healthy foods and gives them some recipes, so they will have some ideas on how to serve the foods to their families."
The four gardens providing vegetables to the farmer's market are the Jackson Park and Washington Park community gardens, the Cook County Sheriff's Garden, Su Casa, Quincy Street Garden, and the garden at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. The gardeners receive payment from the WIC program for their vegetables.
About 4,500 low-income mothers with young children use the WIC center at 62nd and Halsted, the site of a former Jewel food store. Since the summer of 1994, urban gardeners provided fresh vegetables to about 30,500 WIC participants.
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