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Butte County Program Gets More Locally Grown Produce On Plates Of Low-Income Residents

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Sarah Bohannon
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NSPR

Going to the farmers market is one of Happi Davis’s favorite things to do with her 2-year-old daughter Lylah. They spend what Davis refers to as their “mother-daughter time” scoping out fresh, colorful produce. Then they decide which fruit and veggies to take home – which pretty much always includes at least one of Lylah’s favorites: strawberries.

“I usually always get her berries with it because that’s what she likes, and it’s not always on the affordable list,” Davis said. “So it’s nice.”

What Davis means when she says she’ll use it to buy Lylah berries is a check she gets from Butte County’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). WIC gets funds from the USDA for these checks, which add up to $20 per year that a family can shop with at the farmers market. 

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Credit Sarah Bohannon / NSPR
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NSPR
Lylah, 2, enjoys her farmers market favorite — strawberries — at the Wednesday North Valley Plaza Mall Certified Farmers Market.

But last month, things changed a bit in Butte County and the yearly checks aren’t the only ones now accepted widely at Butte’s farmers markets. A statewide pilot program is being expanded that now allows WIC participants to also use vouchers – called Fruit and Vegetable Checks  — from their monthly food package to buy farmers market produce. 

“They can select to use these fruit and vegetable vouchers at their grocery store like they always have or, now, at the farmers’ market,” says Butte County WIC Program Manager VimlanVandien.

Vandien said in 2013, 2 in 5 Butte County infants and children under the age of 5 participated in the WIC program – meaning monthly access to farmers markets could be a big nutritional boost for a chunk of the county’s most vulnerable. Not only could it possibly open up a closer place for a participant to shop for fruits and vegetables, but farmers market produce is often particularly rich in nutrients, a factor Vandien said is especially important for the WIC demographic, which encompasses three nutritionally critical stages of life.  

“Pregnancy, infancy, childhood, combined with the low-income challenges that people have that’s why I’m so excited about the Farmers Market Program,” Vandien said. “Because it brings the two of them together and we can really help this vulnerable population.”

In the past only a few farmers at one farmers market in Butte County accepted Fruit and Vegetable Checks, mostly because processing the checks was difficult for farmers. Natalie Carter, general manager for the Chico Certified Farmers Market said with the new, expanded program it’s the market’s management that processes the checks, which has led to higher participation.

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Credit Sarah Bohannon / NSPR
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NSPR
Happi Davis selects produce at the Wednesday North Valley Plaza Mall Certified Farmers Market. Davis benefits from a recent change in the monthy food package her daughter receives from Butte County’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) that allows her to buy produce more frequently at many county farmers' markets.

 “Having transitioned into this option for us to have all of our markets do it and to be able to streamline the process for our farmers, we’ve already seen an increase the redemption of the FVC checks at the market, and we’re expecting even more,” Carter said.

According to the California Department of Public Health’s website since 2010 more than 55 farmers markets in California have been authorized to accept WIC Fruit and Vegetable Checks. For now, Butte County is the only of those to be authorized in the North State.

For more information about Butte County’s WIC Fruit and Vegetable Checks, call the county’s WIC Office at 891-2726.

Farmers’ Market Locations and Hours

These are the six Certified Farmers Markets in Butte County that accept WIC Fruit and Vegetable Checks (FVC). According to CDPH’s website, Butte County is the only in the North State currently authorized to accept FVC.

Chico

Chico Certified Farmers Market

Second and Wall Streets
Saturday (Year Round)
7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

North Valley Plaza Mall

East Avenue and Pillsbury Road
Wednesday (May to December)
7:30 a.m. to noon

Thursday Night

On Broadway between Second and Fifth Streets
Thursday (April to September)
6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Paradise

Paradise Alliance Church

6491 Clark Road
Tuesday (May to October)
7:30 a.m. to noon

Ace Hardware Parking Lot

5720 Clark Road
Thursday (May to December)
4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Oroville

Oroville Certified Farmers Market

Montgomery and Myers Streets
Saturday (May to October)
7:30 a.m. to noon

Other Farmers Market Food Benefit Programs in the North State

Three other food benefit programs are available at Certified Farmers Markets throughout the North State: WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program, Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and CalFresh EBT. 

For more information about the:

·        WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program - contact your local WIC Agency.

·        Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program - contact your local Area Agency on Aging.

·        CalFresh EBT- contact your local County Human Service Agency.