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Danbury Farmers' Market: Better Health Through Better Food

Every Friday through October, the Danbury Farmers’ Market Community Collaborative (DFMCC), enables everyone to share in the excitement and benefits of fresh local fruits, vegetables, specialty food items, music and special events.
Every Friday through October, the Danbury Farmers’ Market Community Collaborative (DFMCC), enables everyone to share in the excitement and benefits of fresh local fruits, vegetables, specialty food items, music and special events. Photo Credit: Contributed

Equitable Access to Local Fresh Food: Making it a Reality

Every Friday, from the end of June through the end of October, the Danbury Farmers’ Market Community Collaborative (DFMCC), thanks in large part to significant funding from the Fairfield County Community Foundation and other local generous donors, enables everyone to share in the excitement and benefits of fresh local fruits, vegetables, specialty food items, music and special events.

Obesity and poor nutrition at all ages, underlying factors in most chronic diseases are strongly associated with the inadequate intake of fruits and vegetables. Those with limited resources tend to purchase less fruits and vegetables. Through direct cash incentives at the market, the DFMCC continues to attack disparities in food purchasing power. Research shows that 79% of the project participants increased their intake of fruits and vegetables.

Striving to provide equitable access to fresh food for all Danbury area residents, and promote health and nutrition, the collaborative of more than 30 community stakeholders, works to both enable those now excluded by limited resources to purchase fresh, local food at the Danbury Farmers’ Market and enhance the market experience for all. Healthy shoppers, healthy vendor profits and a healthy local economy are the goals. At its core, Better Health through Better Food is a community?wide health and nutrition enhancement and engagement campaign, a sustainable agriculture initiative, and an economic development strategy.

DFMCC Nutrition Incentives

For those with limited resources, providing additional cash (purchasing power) is the best incentive to increase buying of local fresh fruits and vegetables. Using a market coin system, DFMCC enables Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly know as Food Stamps) recipients to use their benefits at the market and matches up to $9 per market to buy nutritious food. DFMCC also matches up to $9 per market for Seniors and Women, Infant & Children’s program (WIC) recipients using Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program Vouchers (FMNP). For those not receiving government food assistance, Fruit and Veggie Certificates are available through 2 community health centers.

2013 Accomplishments … by the greatly increased numbers!

DFMCC increased fruit and vegetable purchasing power of the target population, by about $28,000, up about 45% from last year, which in turn provided equal direct vendor benefit. SNAP match reached $2061, up 180% over 2012. The total WIC match was about $15,500, a 67% increase from last year; Senior match was about $6165 a 26% increase; and the SNAP used but not matched was $608,111% increase over 2012.

A joint venture with the Regional YMCA of Western CT and the United Way of Western Connecticut’s S.C.R.A.M. (Students Can Run and Move) program enabled about 280 children to shop during the season, providing $2800 worth of fresh produce for them and their families.

Making It Work …..

  • The bilingual (Spanish and English) program manager critical to success and will continue. Multilanguage volunteers provided vital support each week.
  • Transportation is identified as a barrier to using the market so HARTransit provided 125 bus passes, making access to fresh food possible for many. Danbury Housing Authority provided bus service for their clients.
  • The Cultural Alliance of Western CT member artists participated in the second annual juried healthy living photo contest, with the entries displayed for the season and beyond promoting healthy living.
  • Acceptance of debit and credit cards improved sales for the vendors, keeping the market more vibrant.
  • Vendors indicated the program “greatly increased” sales.

To Make It Even Better in 2014….

  • Low income Veterans, through the new Department of Agriculture pilot program, will be provided Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program vouchers. DFMCC will match those vouchers.
  • Market hours will be from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM, to accommodate more shoppers.
  • Create innovative distribution channels being developed to bring reduced price fresh market produce directly to targeted groups.
  • Increase program of health screening promotion, wellness activities, and dance.
  • Food rescue system will be set up to provide fresh produce for the city shelter.

For more information, please contact Peggy Zamore, CD?N, MPH, Director, DFMCC Better Health through Better Food at Peggyz18@gmail.com or (203) 792?1711.