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Farmers market programs make healthy foods more accessible

According to “Access to Healthy Food and Why It Matters,” a report from The Food Trust, access to healthy fresh foods is a challenge for many families, especially those living in low-income neighborhoods or on fixed incomes.

However, about 6 to 9 percent of all U.S. households are still without access to healthy food. Without access to healthy foods, a nutritious diet and good health are hard to reach. This is why ensuring healthy foods are available for all is critical.

The report also states that healthy food retailers are critical components of healthy, thriving communities. Clark County is lucky to have a thriving local farmers’ market that is offering several programs this season to make healthy, locally-grown and produced foods available to the community.

The Winchester-Clark County Farmers’ Market is one of 25 market offering “Double Dollars” programs, which allow people receiving governmental nutritional assistance to double their spending power at farmers markets.

“Double Dollars” means that families receiving assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants and Children (WIC), or the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) are able to double their spending power by shopping at farmers markets.

Programs like these not only benefit the families being fed or the farmers selling their goods, they have a positive impact on the community as a whole. The Food Trust report found that every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates $9 in local spending at supermarkets, grocery stores and other approved SNAP-accepting retailers.

Seniors in Winchester and Clark County will soon be able to get vouchers for the Winchester-Clark County Farmers Market beginning June 22.

The program is federally-funded with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture serving as the lead agency. The program is available to anyone over the age of 60 on the day of their application and on a limited income, according to a release from the Clark County Extension Office.

It provides low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for eligible foods — including fruits, vegetables and honey grown by local farmers — at farmers markets.

Beginning June 27, qualifying families participating in the WIC program will be able to get vouchers. The vouchers will be handed out via the Clark County Health Department. And, because of grant funding through the Community Farm Alliance, the market will be able to double the value of a limited amount of the vouchers.

These programs take the “buy one, get one” approach and apply it to healthy eating. The benefits of eating nutritional and fresh foods can’t be denied, Clark County families are fortunate they won’t have to look further than downtown Winchester to find these super foods.