$300,000 in Fresh-Produce Food Stamps Go Unused in NJ Every Year
State health and agriculture officials are heading to a South Jersey farm on Thursday to celebrate National Farmer’s Market Week and promote the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program.
According to state Health Department Commissioner Cathleen Bennett, this program helps to provide healthy Jersey Fresh produce for many lower-income state residents.
She said pregnant women, breastfeeding women and families with children up to age 5, if they are income eligible, can receive two $10 vouchers.
“We’re also helping out seniors, so each senior can receive five $5 vouchers, so that’s up to $25 or $50 per couple.”
The commissioner says it’s important for everyone who is eligible for this program to take advantage of it.
“The reason why we’re a little bit concerned is that we’ve seen about one third of eligible New Jerseyans are not utilizing their WIC Farmer’s Market vouchers,” she said.
“That means that each year we have over $300,000 which is unspent on fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s not good news for the eligible recipients and it’s not good news for New Jersey’s farmers.”
She added, “We want to make sure we continue to support and invest in our farms here in the state and we want to make sure our residents are actually making healthy choices and we want to help them make healthy choices.”
The New Jersey Department of Health's WIC program oversees the WIC Farmers' Market Nutrition Program and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. Click here for more information.
According to a Department of Health, the following WIC clinics have farmers come to them or have farm stands within walking distance:
- Tri-County WIC (covering Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties)
- Newark WIC
- North Hudson (CAP) WIC (farm stand across the street)
- Plainfield WIC (farm stand across the street)
- Rutgers NJ Medical School WIC
- Trinitas WIC in Elizabeth
- Children’s Home Society of NJ Mercer (Trenton)
- Saint Joseph WIC in Paterson
- East Orange (farmer delivers bags for next day pick-up by participants)
Some farmers also travel to WIC offices to sell produce and make it easier for participants to access fruits and vegetables:
- Atlantic County: Pastore Orchards Farms in Hammonton - Wednesdays
- Camden County: Vacchiano Farms in Washington - Mondays and Wednesdays (bagged produce only)
- Cumberland County: Santaniello Farms in Vineland - Mondays and Fridays (morning only)