Low-Income Mothers & Senior Citizens: WIC Provides "Farmers Market Food Coupons"

You may already know about WIC—”Women, Infants, and Children,” the government program that provides nutritional assistance to “low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women,” and to their children up to age five. But a lot of people don’t know that if you receive WIC or if you’re a low-income senior, you may also qualify for their farmers market program, which means you can take advantage of the same fresh-from-the-farm bounty as those coke-snorting yuppies who’ll buy anything with the word “heirloom” stamped across it.

Both the regular and senior versions of the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) distribute coupons, which “can be used to buy fresh, unprepared fruits, vegetables and herbs from farmers, farmers’ markets or roadside stands that have been approved by the State agency to accept FMNP coupons.” Sorry, no prunes, raisins, nuts, honey, maple syrup, or cider. (You can still sign whatever wacky petition is being circulated that day, though.)

Says the WIC site, “Currently, 45 State agencies operate the FMNP. They include the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and 37 States: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. In addition, 5 Indian Tribal Organizations administer the Program: Chickasaw, Oklahoma; Osage Tribe, Oklahoma; the Mississippi Band of Choctaws; the Five Sandoval Indian Pueblos, New Mexico, and the Pueblos of San Felipe, New Mexico.”

WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program
Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Hey, that’s awesome. The only possible problem (aside from limited access to farmer’s markets in some areas) is that a lot of people don’t so much know what to do with fresh vegetables and such, whether they’re WIC-eligible or upper-class. I hope the program distributes some recipes or something to help people take advantage of that yummy fresh food.

  2. bohemian says:

    Many of these programs like WIC, Head Start etc. are good at trying to help people learn good habits by providing information or educational seminars.
    The state food stamp programs and WIC need to put together a cookbook and maybe some food seminars to help people understand how to eat well for minimal dollars without taking hours and hours to do it.

    Some of those hippie vegitarian dishes are pretty good. I learned that lentils don’t have to taste like mud.

  3. crashman2600 says:

    I’ve seen the little old ladies at our farmers market with their coupon books, the coupons are good for $2 each if I remember correctly. I’m sure they appreciate the fresh fruit and veggies and I’m sure they know how to make use of them.

  4. Well that’s pretty nifty! I wonder what the stats are on how many people in WIC are aware of the program and take advantage of it.

  5. HungryGrrl says:

    Go WIC! My family had WIC when I was a child, and my first job was in a grocery store, so I know a lot about the program.

    For those not aware of the program, it is very restrictive in general- you can only get certain sizes of certain wholesome cereals (like Cheerios), Juicy Juice in cans (not bottles), eggs, milk, blocks of cheese, certain breads, etc. Infant formula is also covered, but everyone’s voucher varies depending on the age and number of children. It’s not like food stamps at all. Most of the stuff they allow needs to be prepared, so allowing people to shop at farmers markets means that the pre-schooler get to have a sliced tomato salad with his grilled cheese and Juicy Juice lunch.

  6. humorbot says:

    “Coke-snorting yuppies?” Take that, 1986.

  7. wezelboy says:

    My fiancee got WIC when she was pregnant with our child. The farmer’s market coupons were by far the best part.

    My understanding is that most people don’t use ‘em- which is a damn shame. The more people use them, the more money they will get.

  8. Roadgeek says:

    Feeding low-income mothers is not a core function of government, and it is an entitlement program I subsidize under protest. What it boils down to is women choosing to have children yet relying on me and other taxpayers to subsidize feeding them.If you are not prepared financially to bring a child into the world, then use better birth control. If you can’t feed ‘em, don’t breed ‘em. And the comment by WEZELBOY really irritates me; I suspect that his fiance might not have qualified for WIC had he been married to her. It would have been too hard for WEZELBOY to step up to the plate and support his child; far easier for the taxpayers to assume his role.

  9. kimsama says:

    Making sure that poorer children are decently fed (WIC) and decently educated (Head Start) should certainly be the role of any humane government. I’m no hippie, and I hates me some entitlement programs, but trying to even out the playing field so that children don’t have to eat garbage, and don’t have to grow up in a low SES just because their parents did, is ok by me. (And maybe the children will grow up and make better choices because of their education and good health).

    Now, corporate welfare I could do without.

  10. ncboxer says:

    @Roadgeek: I don’t think you necessarily have to be “low-income” anymore to qualify for the WIC program. I read something about a year ago that said over 50% of babies get WIC now. I think a lot of government agencies in general have increased their efforts to target people and relaxed their eligibility requirements in order to justify their existence. What makes more sense keeping- a gov’t agency that serves 100,000 people or one that serves 10 million?

    I do agree in a way with Roadgeek- I would severely limit access to WIC and other programs like that. Why make it so that almost everybody can receive a free handout.

    I think in many cases with WIC it comes down to- even though I can afford everything, should I take this free handout that the gov’t is offering? I know in my case when my son was born, we could have gotten WIC, but we choose not to because we could afford everything ourselves and would feel guilty taking advantage of this.

  11. samurailynn says:

    I agree that all programs funded by taxpayer dollars need to have limited access so that we are not subsidizing the lifestyles of people who really could afford what they need without the program. I also think that programs like WIC which restrict what kinds of things people can buy are much more helpful than programs where people could choose to buy anything. I knew someone once that qualified for foodstamps as a college student, and she used them to buy a lot of more expensive items that she wouldn’t have been able to afford without them. Without food stamps, she would have been eating (and still eating healthy foods), but she may not have been able to afford things like brie. The unfortunate thing is that even with programs like WIC, most people will take everything they can get. We had a neighbor who used WIC and would get the jars of peanut butter, even though her kids didn’t really like peanut butter and she never used it. She would end up giving it away to anyone who would take it.

  12. Jabes says:

    @Roadgeek: I have a good friend who ended up on WIC after a number of bad things happened to her — she dropped from a middle-class lifestyle to relying on WIC and the Salvation Army to feed her children. In her wildest dreams, she never thought that would happen to her. Not everyone on WIC is some “welfare queen” who shouldn’t have children because she can’t afford them. Was my friend an exception to the rule? I don’t know, but, wow, your comment really pissed me off. It was humiliating enough for her to have to accept help without people such as yourself judging her without knowing any of the facts. (And to anyone who’s going to whinge about “why didn’t you help her?” — I gave her my substantial Christmas bonuses two years in a row until she was back on her feet.)

  13. Mom2Talavera says:

    I could argue that you don’t have to be low income to eat like a peasant!

    My wealthy SIL feeds her children a steady diet of junk food…thats devoid of wholesome foods.They are on a steady diet of Poptarts,lunchables,chef boyardee,frozen pizza rolls,fruit snacks,CapriSun,frozen nuggets with frequent trips to MD’s,BK and Taco Bell…and when she “cooks” its usually Hamburger helper.

    I on the other hand make much less but I still manage to buy whole foods and lots of organic.

    I think for alot of people(not necessarily WIC qualifying) they use use “its too $$$” as this big umbrella excuse not to eat well and make an effort.OTOH I applaud those that are eligible for these coupons and choose to utilize them.

  14. br549xt93 says:

    Just to clarify Roadgeek; Your marital status makes no difference in whether or not you get WIC. They want to know about all income for the house, no matter who earns it. I participate in WIC, and it has helped me tremendously. Income however, does play a factor in your eligibility to receive WIC.

  15. Spooty says:

    I’m just glad my state is one of the holdouts. What a shame that so many people leech off “the government” this way.