By Stacy Miller
Farmers Market Coalition
Next week, (August 2-8) is National Farmers Market Week, and the nation’s 4,800 farmers markets have a lot to celebrate!
The USDA started recognizing National Farmers Market Week in 2000, and since then the number of markets listed in the USDA official directory of farmers markets has swelled over 170%. This means opportunities for hundreds of thousands of producers to sell directly to millions of customers wanting fresh food. In turn, these customers support farmers, while tending to their own health, building their local communities and strengthening their regional economies.
Healthwise, many experts would agree that fresh food is the cornerstone of a healthy diet. At farmers markets, the produce, meats, cheeses, breads, eggs, and other food available is often the freshest possible.To this end, many hospitals are getting on the farmers market wagon, including. Kaiser Permanente by developing a holistic program to integrate farmers markets into their patient and employee wellness plans. Kaiser now hosts scores of markets in six states including California, Hawaii, Oregon, Colorado, Maryland, and Georgia. Hospital-hosted markets are also emerging at independent hospitals in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Port Angeles, Washington, and Camden, New Jersey.
Federal and state nutrition assistance programs are also using farmers markets to invest in healthy lifestyles across all income levels. Now, more than 3,300 markets accept Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers and more than 3,100 markets participate in the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). In 2008, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service reported that over $40 million was spent at farmers markets through these two programs alone. There are also innovative programs, like the Nourishing Neighborhood initiative sponsored by the Wholesome Wave Foundation, which double the value of these coupons, making shopping at farmers markets the ultimate two-for-one bargain deal.
Read full post at Farmers Market CoalitionMCorg.