Sen. DeGazon praises Department of Agriculture and Department of Health
Sen. Allison DeGazon on Wednesday commended the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health for their partnership using Women Infants and Children program vouchers at the Farmer’s Market.
The Virgin Fresh Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program has been around for eight years. The pilot program began in 2011 on St. Croix, with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Its purpose is to help provide fresh, unprepared, locally grown fruits and vegetables to WIC participants—whom are typically low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, and children ages 1 to 5, who are at nutritional risk--while encouraging support for farmers’ markets.
“This is a personal success because my mother retired from working with the WIC program for over 30 years. To be able to push a program that she supported brings me much pride,” DeGazon said, adding that she valued the program as a mother herself. “ As a mom and a farmer, I understand the need to adequately provide for your children and this program is important for the health and nutritional benefits of women and children in this territory.”
The use of the vouchers at the farmers’ market was slow at the start, however, families now flock to the farmers’ market regularly in search of local produce. Its success has even earned praise from the US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services in 2017 for having the highest average rate of redemption of vouchers in the nation.
According to USDA the 68.25 percent redemption rate of vouchers exceeded the national redemption rate of 56.84 percent.
The program follows a specific cycle: once funding is received, the VIDOA provides checks in increments to WIC recipients; the recipients then take the checks to farmers’ markets or registered produce stands; the farmers, in turn, then take the checks and cash them at the bank.
DeGazon, who is chair of the Committee on Economic Development, Regulations and Agriculture, said she looked forward to more years of success from DOH and VIDOA with the program.
“This is another powerful step to support farmers, increase local purchases and keep our families healthy. I am extremely proud that DOA and DOH align with my agriculture platform,” DeGazon said.
For more information, residents or local farmers can contact the WIC offices at (340)718-1311 on St. Croix, or (340)776-1770 on St. Croix, or the Department of Agriculture at (340)778-0997