OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The line at Charles Drew Health Center filled up quickly.
“Our turnout is great,” Charles Drew WIC Manager Kelsey Phippen said. “We already have lines lining up prior to the event.”
The turnout is for free, fresh produce to those with farmer’s market vouchers.
The vouchers are given out to Omaha's WIC centers, which support pregnant women, nursing mothers, infants, and children under five years old. They are also given out to a few of the area’s senior centers.
This is one of ten locations where the food stands have been setting up this summer.
However, before this program began the farmer’s market vouchers often went unused.
“They don’t know what to do at the Farmer’s Market, they don’t feel comfortable going, it’s crowded, it’s hot, they have little ones and it’s a whole thing to bring them to the market,” Whispering Roots Director of Nutritional Programming Anna Curry said. “So often families weren’t using the vouchers because they weren’t able to or didn’t know how.”
Nonprofit organizations Big Garden and Whispering Roots, who both share the mission of educating the youth and their families on how to grow and cook your own food, collaborated with WIC programs and local farms to bring these healthy options to those in the community that may not typically be able to afford or access it.
“We find that seniors and children in particular are at risk for food insecurity,” Big Garden Director of Communications Jaimee Trobough said. “So this is one more way to get them fresh produce right in the community where they live.”
“Fruits and vegetables are one of the more expensive parts of our diet and things that aren’t always affordable for families that are on a budget,” Curry said. “Having these vouchers really allows these families to have access to the really fresh good stuff at the farmer’s market that’s locally grown, most nutritious and best tasting.”
Through the program the vouchers used were matched, thanks to sponsor CHI Health, allowing the customers to get double the produce.
Overall, a win-win for everybody involved.
“It’s a double benefit here. For the farmers it’s a great way for them to sell their produce and get some more exposure out into the community and have another outlet,” Curry said. “So, they’re making money today and our families are getting free, local good produce.”
“We are helping our clients and people in the community get healthy produce, and we are also supporting our farmers,” Phippen said. “Providing our clients with healthy foods and options for things that they can cook at home based on education that our WIC dietitians have already given them in their appointments with us.”
The farm stands have come to an end for the summer but Whispering Roots tells us that they will have even more sites when they return next year.
In total, they were able to get around $11,000 of produce into the hands of those in need at no cost.