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UCCE explores the Farm-to-WIC Program

The Issue

Despite the documented health benefits of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, less than 50 percent of California children eat five or more servings of fruit/vegetables daily. Low-income populations in particular face many barriers to consuming fruit and vegetables. To overcome these barriers, the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) changed its policy in October 2009 and began distributing cash vouchers to low-income women and children to purchase fruit and vegetables.

What Has ANR Done?

A team of UCCE educators received a three-year specialty crop block grant from CDFA to research ways to improve WIC participants' access to locally produced specialty crops. During the project's first year, the UCCE nutrition educators surveyed WIC participants in Alameda, Tulare and Riverside counties to determine their interest in purchasing locally produced foods. Farm advisors and specialists explored the feasibility of connecting small farmers to WIC vendors. Also, visits to WIC stores were made to assess improvements needed in produce handling to maintain product quality at the store level.

The Payoff

WIC shoppers learn to use local produce

The WIC clientele survey led to the development of produce handling and nutrition fact sheets for nine fall/winter crops and seven spring/summer crops. Testing showed that WIC participants learned new information about preparation, storage, nutritional value, serving and selection of produce from the fact sheets. A poster designed to promote seasonal produce was also developed. Some handling problems at the WIC stores were identified and three training sessions on produce handling for 30 WIC store employees in Alameda, Tulare and Riverside/Coachella Valley were carried out. More training and outreach will be conducted during the second project year.


Supporting Unit:

Small Farm Program, UCD Nutrition Dept., UCD Plant Sciences/Post Harvest, Alameda County, Riverside County, Tulare County and Santa Clara County.
Chutima Ganthavorn, Cathi Lamp, Lucrecia Farfan-Ramirez, Tammy McMurdo, Penny Leff, Marita Cantwell, Jose Aguiar, Manuael Jimenez, Aziz Baameur, and Project Leaders: Lucia Kaiser, PI (530) 754-9063 and Shermain Hardesty, co-PI (530) 752-0467.