While farmers market shoppers may be familiar with our Fresh Bucks (and Bonus Bucks) token system, it’s important to note that there is another federal benefit program that helps keep our community farmers markets humming through the season. This is the WIC (Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children) Farmers Market Nutrition Program or FMNP. Eligible WIC participants are issued FMNP coupons in addition to their regular WIC benefits. These coupons can be used to buy eligible foods from farmers, farmers markets, or roadside stands that have been approved by the state agency to accept FMNP coupons.
We have received data back from the RI WIC office about redemption at the 2020 summer markets. The total WIC check redemption from shoppers at RI farmers markets was about $44,000! The top 12 redemptions (with the exception of two farm stands) came from farms that participate in our Armory, Broad Street, and Neutaconkanut farmers markets — totaling $29,000. In a few cases these farms participate in additional community markets in our networks, with whom we work closely.
The top redemption by a landslide was from Daily Farm, a diversified vegetable farm in Tiverton run by Chai Thao. Chai has been growing for many years for both the Hmong and Rhode Island communities at large. Often with the help of her expanding family, Chai holds down our Central Falls market as the only vendor. This market is strategically placed next to the Children’s Friend WIC office. In recent years Chai has also become a popular addition to our Woonsocket market, located outside of the Thundermist Health Center (also a WIC site) in summertime.
Our team stays in close contact with the WIC office throughout the year, making sure our farmers are eligible and trained-up to accept WIC checks. The FMNP program is an essential part of our summer markets program.
This graph shows the redemption from the top-12 growers from 2020. The lines with a red tomato at the end indicate farmers that participated in Farm Fresh Rhode Island markets.