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Getting Fruits and Vegetables to Those in Need: Farmers’ Market Vouchers Work!

We all know how important fruits and vegetables are to a healthy diet, but that doesn’t mean we eat as many of them as we should. It’s hard enough for people who have access to fresh produce, as well as the financial means to purchase it, to eat enough fruits and veggies. But for folks living in food deserts — places where there is a dearth of healthy food available — it’s nearly impossible. So how do we fix this pressing problem? Farmers’ market vouchers may be the answer.

According to a new study from New York University, providing low-income families with vouchers to use at farmers’ markets can increase their consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s great news because low-income folks are more likely to suffer from diet-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.[i],[ii],[iii]

For this study, researchers provided vouchers worth $10 per farmer’s market visit to 281 women for 12 to 16 weeks. All the women were caring for young children and already received food assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Researchers found the vouchers increased the majority of the shoppers’ consumption of fruits and vegetables. Women who reported the greatest increases were those with the lowest levels of education and those who consumed the least produce at the beginning of the study. In other words, those who most needed it saw the most benefit.

I am always happy to hear about preventative measures to improve people’s health before they get sick, rather than waiting for disease to strike and then treating it. Measures like this, which target vulnerable groups, are especially important.

Low-income families often consume diets that are lacking in fresh produce. This isn’t necessarily because they have an aversion to eating fruits and vegetables. A big part of the problem is simply a lack of convenient access to fresh, healthy food in the neighborhoods where they live. Farmers’ markets vouchers can help address this inequity. “In terms of healthy food options, farmers’ market incentives may be able to bring a low-income person onto the same playing field as those with greater means,” explained Carolyn Dimitri, the lead author of the study.

Of course, relying completely on farmers’ market vouchers to improve the diets of the poor isn’t feasible, as these markets aren’t open most days of the week and often close for months at a time in the winter. But it’s a good first step.

President Obama thinks so too. In February, he signed the Agricultural Act of 2014 into law. Among many other provisions, the farm bill contained incentives for low-income families to buy fresh produce at farmers’ markets. This measure is similar to existing programs run by local governments and non-profits.

Falling short of recommended levels of fruit and vegetable consumption isn’t only an issue for the poor, though. Most Americans don’t eat enough of these health-giving foods. And while there’s no substitute for getting your daily fill of fruits and vegetables, Juice Plus+ is another way to help bridge the gap between what you should eat and what you do eat every day.

If you’ve been considering starting your family on Juice Plus+, but are concerned about the cost, did you know that by participating in the Children’s Health Study, your children can take Juice Plus for free? See below for details on how to enroll your child.

 http://www.childrenshealthstudy.com/participate.html

What are your thoughts on farmers’ market vouchers for fruits and vegetables?


 

[i] Lysy Z, et al. The impact of income on the incidence of diabetes: a population-based study. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2013 Mar;99(3):372-9.

[ii] Luepker RV, et al. Socioeconomic factors and coronary heart disease risk factor trend. The Minnesota Heart Survey. Circulation. 1993;88:2172-9.

[iii] Boscoe FP, et al. The relationship between area poverty rate and site-specific cancer incidence in the United States. Cancer. 2014 Jul 15;120(14):2191-8.

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