The summer brings for a new opportunity for community bonding, food options and other healthier alternatives. The summer is a time for people to get out and enjoy the weather as well as the company of fellow Eaton County citizens. And the farming season isn’t anything new to the Eaton County population. During this season several different farmers’ markets are open and ready for costumers. Farmers markets help give the community fresh food while keeping the business local. Eaton County United Way (ECUW) is a supporter of the programs Senior Project FRESH/Market FRESH.
In the state there are two different established groups who help provide fresh produce and healthier foods to low income families. The two different groups are Senior Project FRESH/Market FRESH. The programs are in the form of coupon vouchers that can be applied for online, and then people receive the coupons. The coupons come in a form of $30 in a booklet of fifteen for $2. Coupons can be used June 1 until October 31 during the farming and harvest season. Project FRESH is partners with Michigan State University Extension and other organizations in order to make the project work. The Project FRESH is an educational nutrient plan; the program also offers classes on how to cook healthier and to show the importance of a well-balanced diet.
Each program is different and better fit to the person’s needs. Senior Project FRESH meant for people over the age of 60, low-income and lives in the county. Seniors can apply online for the Project FRESH coupons. The project gives people an option to eat healthy and Michigan-grown food. To recognize the farmers markets or road side that accept the coupon vouchers will have a sign on their stand that states, “Senior Project FRESH Welcome Here.”
The other end of the program is for younger families, WIC Project FRESH. The program qualifies to women and children up to age 5 and currently enrolled in the WIC program. Women who are pregnant or breast feeding are targeted because of the nutritional value on food during that time. The coupons are administered the same way that the Senior FRESH program.
According to the Michigan State Department of Community Health website in 2011 more than 25,000 WIC clients participated in Project FRESH. Michigan has one of the largest Project FRESH programs in the nation and 75 counties are involved in the program. For farmers who are accepting the coupons, they first must be qualified through the Project FRESH program. To be accepted into the program a farmer must be USDA qualified. Farmers more interested in becoming a Project FRESH distributer contact Pam Gove for the 2014 harvest season.
ECUW is excited for the summer season to bring people together to build a stronger community. To learn more about the Project FRESH/Market FRESH programs contact ECUW to receive a brochure explaining the programs and how to apply for the coupon vouchers.
Sarah K. Smith is the Communications Associate for ECUW and a senior Journalism and Mass Communications major at Olivet College.