For a decade, thousands of low-income, nutritionally-needy Oregonians have been linked with farmers' markets and farm roadside stands through the Oregon Farm Direct Nutrition Program.
The anniversary celebration of the program in August provided a chance to showcase the program, which now includes 80 participating markets providing fresh fruit and vegetables to qualifying young families and senior citizens.
Two programs are included under the FDNP umbrella: The Women, Infants and Children Program, which serves pregnant and nursing women and their children with food and medical services; a program for senior citizens in need of nutritional assistance.
Under the FDNP program, more than a million dollars are earned by participating farmers yearly.
"Providing needy Oregonians with access to fresh, wholesome produce is a proven, tangible way to reduce nutrition-related illness," points out Katy Coba, Oregon Department of Agriculture director.
"There is nothing more important for health than good nutrition," says Susan Allan, public health director at the Oregon Department of Human Services.
The two state agencies jointly administer the FDNP effort.
Under the program,$20 worth of $2 checks are provided for those enrolled in the WIC program. Low-income seniors each receive $30 worth of $3 checks. These are used to purchase locally-produced produce from authorized producers at farm stands and farmers' markets.
Additionally, there's a Farmer Friendly Bank Program allowing farmers in the program to deposit these checks into banks and credit unions that waive or reduce processing fees.
Since low-income individuals do not commonly shop at farmers' markets and roadside stands, the nutrition program benefits growers by bringing a cadre of new customers into their sales arenas.