Wayne State Farmers Market supports healthy diets
By Kami Pothukuchi, Ph.D.
Special to the Michigan Citizen
The Wayne State University Farmers Market unveiled its seventh season on June 4 at its usual location, 5201 Cass Ave, across the street from the Main Branch of the Detroit Public Library. One of 10 neighborhood markets in Detroit, the market offers a range of fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, and prepared foods to eat at the market or take home.
For 22 weeks, the market will host farmers and food businesses from across the region, including at least 10 from Detroit. D-Town Farm, Grown in Detroit Co-operative, Brother Nature, Labrosse Farm and Recovery Park Farm represent Detroit growers. Detroit businesses Avalon, Nikki’s Ginger Teas, Sweet Potato Sensations, Russell Street Deli and Brooklyn Street Local sell baked goods, beverages and other ready-to-eat foods.
In addition to cash, the WSU Farmers Market accepts the Bridge Card as well as WIC Project FRESH and Senior Project FRESH. These benefits help impoverished households increase their budgets for fresh produce and other healthy foods. Additionally, Bridge Card spending is matched one-to-one, up to $20 per card per day, with Double Up Food Bucks.
Bridge Card: Participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, use the Bridge Card to buy wooden tokens, which are then spent at various stalls. Funded through the federal Farm Bill, SNAP supports purchase of fresh produce, pre-packaged foods, and food-bearing transplants at the market. SNAP at the Wayne State Farmers Market operates through a partnership with Eastern Market Corporation.
Double Up Food Bucks: Silver $2 DUFB tokens offered at the market enhance the buying power of Bridge Card customers. Because DUFB may be spent only on Michigan-grown fresh produce, they also increase revenues for the state’s growers. Participants are able to buy greater varieties of produce and try unfamiliar items without having to spend their own money. For more information, browse www.fairfoodnetwork.org.
WIC Project FRESH and Senior Project FRESH: Also funded through the Farm Law, these programs provide coupons to purchase Michigan-grown fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets in the state. To qualify for the programs, a family must earn no more than 185 percent of the federally defined poverty level. WIC Project FRESH serves children, ages 1-4, and pregnant, breastfeeding or postpartum non-breastfeeding women. Senior Project FRESH (also called Market FRESH) helps seniors, ages 60 and over. Michigan’s farmers also benefit from these programs.
WIC Project FRESH booklets (totaling $20 each) may be obtained from the following Detroit locations:
– Detroit Urban League, 15770 James Couzens, phone: 313.832.4600; or,
– Institute for Population Health, 1400 Woodbridge Street, phone: 313.309.9350.
Market FRESH booklets (totaling $30 each) are available from the local Area Agency on Aging office. For more information, contact the State’s Office on Services for the Aging at 517.373.8230, or browse www.michigan.gov/osa.
To find Detroit markets that accept SNAP, DUFB, Project FRESH and Market FRESH, browse the Michigan Farmers Market Association website at mifma.org/find-a-farmers-market, or call 517.432.3381.
Students Gain Advantage at the WSU Farmers Market
WSU Farmers Market also offers the Student Advantage program, in which eligible students get $10 in vouchers in exchange for $5 in cash. Vouchers can be used only to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and food-bearing transplants.
Piloted in 2013, Student Advantage put nearly $10,000 in the hands of produce growers, increasing their revenues 15-25 percent, and brought nearly 600 new customers to the market.
A survey of 58 participants in October 2013 was illuminating. A majority (57 percent) live in 48201 and 48202 zip codes, neighborhoods on or close to campus. Sixty-two percent were 25 years or younger, with one in five under age 20.
The program has also improved diets. Eighty percent of respondents report they bought more fruits and vegetables, and 69 percent bought more varieties of produce. Nearly one in four (24 percent) also reported cooking more at home, 43 percent ate more fruits and vegetables themselves or shared with friends, 15 percent tried new fruits and vegetables, and 16 percent ate less junk food.
Finally, participants valued the chance to double their spending; access to high quality, locally sourced produce; and the market’s convenient location.
Thus, Student Advantage constitutes a win-win-win — for students in increased budgets for fresh produce; for produce vendors in increased revenues; and for the market, more new customers and increased spending per customer.
All the above-mentioned programs continue in 2014. Along with others, they help the Wayne State Farmers Market support healthier diets for our customers. Have you shopped at the market this season?
Kami Pothukuchi, Ph.D., is associate professor of urban planning at Wayne State University. She directs SEED Wayne, a campus-community collaborative dedicated to building sustainable food systems on campus and in the community. She also serves on the Detroit Food Policy Council.