We have been cooperating with the Project Fresh program since its inception several years ago. It started as an offshoot of WIC, (Women, Infants & Children), which helps pregnant women and young children who are nutritionally at risk. I’m a fan of the WIC program; it incorporates nutrition, health, & food preparation education with coupons that can be used only for specific foods that are appropriate to meet the nutritional needs of the recipients.
Project Fresh is a special program in which WIC recipients receive a pack of ten two-dollar coupons that can be used only at farm markets/farmers’ markets, and only for fresh, locally grown produce. The WIC coordinator asked me if I would be interested in bringing some produce (packaged in two-dollar increments) to the coupon distribution days. It sounded good to me, so I have had two days there this summer, July 1 and yesterday.
Yesterday I took our fresh sweet corn, Pristine apples, Early Magic summer plums, and Harlayne apricots. I made sure I took plenty of extra fruit for free samples. Families were scheduled for appointments on the hour. When they arrived, they checked in and waited until the educational session was to start. That was a good time for me to chat with them and encourage them to sample the fruit. Everyone recognized the apples, but a number of the adults were not familiar with summer plums or apricots. Most who tried them liked them, and some were astonished at how tasty they were! It is always fun to introduce new fruits or fruit varieties to people, and it’s great for the kids to try something new.
After the educational session (led by an MSU Extension educator, who also gave each family a cookbook for preparing nutritious meals and an insulated fabric grocery bag that zips closed), the families checked back at the office to get their coupons, and had another opportunity to sample the fruit. They could use a coupon (or more) to purchase something right there, so it was efficient and easy for them. It also gave women who were new to Project Fresh the opportunity to use their coupons for the first time, and get a little practice, so they won’t be apprehensive about using them again.
I was able to let them know that they are welcome to come to our market for more variety and to get larger quantities. Of course, I told them about our sample shelf (right inside the front door, on the wall to the right), and I had used the same red plastic baskets for samples at the WIC office as we use at the market, so that will be familiar when they stop in. We are the only farm market that accepts Project Fresh (and Market Fresh, a similar program for seniors) in the county, and I am happy that we do.