WIC & Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Programs

Evidence Rating  
Some Evidence
Evidence rating: Some Evidence

Strategies with this rating are likely to work, but further research is needed to confirm effects. These strategies have been tested more than once and results trend positive overall.

Health Factors  
Decision Makers

Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs (FMNP) are part of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Senior Nutrition Program. These programs provide participating women, children, and seniors with coupons for fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables that can be redeemed at farmers markets and produce stands, or can support shares in community supported agriculture. The federal WIC FMNP benefit ranges from $10 to $30 per year1, and the federal Senior FMNP benefit ranges from $20 to $50 per year2; some states supplement these amounts. 

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased access to fruits & vegetables

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased fruit & vegetable consumption
  • Reduced emissions

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that WIC and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs (FMNPs) improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables, although effects appear limited by the programs’ benefit amounts3, 4, 5, 6. Supporting WIC and Senior FMNPs is a suggested strategy to increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables7, 8, 9. However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects and determine ideal benefit amounts.

Participation in WIC FMNP can increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption by approximately one full serving for women with low incomes4, 6. Home delivery of Senior FMNP benefits can increase consumption of fruits and vegetables by approximately one full serving and increase the percentage of seniors consuming the recommended 5 or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables10. In locations with state supplements, WIC and Senior FMNP have also been shown to positively affect attitudes toward fruit and vegetable consumption and amounts consumed11, 12, 13.

Researchers suggest that increasing the federal benefit amount, supplementing it with state funds, or incorporating fruit and vegetable matching incentives could increase the program’s impact3, 14. Including nutrition education, particularly education that is culturally sensitive, geography and age appropriate3, and introducing requirements for coupon redemption can increase consumption of fruits and vegetables5, 15. Enhancements such as coordinated promotion and increased collaboration with other state-level agencies can increase use of FMNP benefits16, and improvements to the process for authorizing vendors, accepting vouchers, and receiving reimbursement can increase the number of participating farmers17.

Transportation to farmers markets remains a challenge for FMNP participation, especially among seniors; home delivery of market goods can overcome such challenges3. Not knowing what to buy, limited produce variety, and unfavorable weather conditions can also be barriers to redeeming coupons at farmers markets18.

An economic analysis of FMNP suggests that the program generates social benefits at a low cost19. WIC and Senior FMNP can also increase earnings for farmers who accept program coupons3, 17; in fiscal year 2015, redeemed WIC FMNP coupons generated about $14 million in farmer revenue20.

WIC  & Senior FMNP benefits may increase shopping at farmers markets that offer seasonal, locally grown foods, which may reduce emissions from fossil fuels used to produce, process, and transport food21, 22, 23, and may also reduce the energy intensity of an individual’s diet if more plant-based foods are consumed in place of animal products21.

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

As of FY 2017, agencies in 39 states, 6 tribal governments, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands support the WIC FMNP, and agencies in 43 states, 8 tribal governments, and Washington DC support the Senior FMNP20, 24. As of 2017, over 19,000 farmers at over 3,640 farmers markets, 2,500 roadside stands, and 90 community supported agriculture programs participated in the SFMNP24, and over 16,800 farmers, 3,300 farmers markets and 2,350 roadside stands were authorized to accept WIC FMNP coupons20.

The CDC highlights Maine as a state that successfully uses the Senior FMNP through a Farm Share to bring fresh produce to seniors, and offers educational tips on cooking, selecting, storing, and preparing fresh produce. In Wisconsin and Rhode Island, culinary schools partner with WIC and SFMNP to offer cooking demonstrations at farmers markets25.

Implementation Resources

USDA-FMNP - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). WIC Farmers’ market nutrition program (FMNP).

USDA-SFMNP - United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP).

SRTSNP-Safe routes to healthy foods - Safe Routes to School National Partnership (SRTSNP). Healthy communities: Safe routes to healthy foods.

ISU-Food and sustainability resources - Iowa State University (ISU), Sustainable Food Processing Alliance. Online resources for food and sustainability.

Footnotes

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

1 USDA-FMNP - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). WIC Farmers’ market nutrition program (FMNP).

2 USDA-SFMNP - United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP).

3 Wilson 2017* - Wilson KO. Community food environments and healthy food access among older adults: A review of the evidence for the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). Social Work in Health Care. 2017;56(4):227-243.

4 Racine 2010* - Racine EF, Smith Vaughn A, Laditka SB. Farmers' market use among African-American women participating in the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2010;110(3):441-6.

5 Stallings 2016* - Stallings TL, Gazmararian JA, Goodman M, Kleinbaum D. The Georgia WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program’s influence on fruit and vegetable intake and nutrition knowledge and competencies among urban African American women and children. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. 2016;11(1):86-101.

6 Joy 2001 - Joy AB, Bunch S, Davis M, Fujii J. USDA program stimulates interest in farmers' markets among low-income women. California Agriculture. 2001;55(3):38-41.

7 CDC-Fruits and vegetables 2011 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Strategies to prevent obesity and other chronic diseases: The CDC guide to strategies to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS); 2011.

8 CDC MMWR-Khan 2009 - Khan LK, Sobush K, Keener D, et al. Recommended community strategies and measurements to prevent obesity in the United States. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). 2009;58(RR-07):1-26.

9 ADA-Stang 2010* - Stang J, Bayerl CT. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Child and adolescent nutrition assistance programs. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2010;110(5):791-9.

10 Johnson 2004 - Johnson DB, Beaudoin S, Smith LT, Beresford SAA, LoGerfo JP. Increasing fruit and vegetable intake in homebound elders: The Seattle senior farmers' market nutrition pilot program. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2004;1(1):A03.

11 Anderson 2001* - Anderson JV, Bybee DI, Brown RM, et al. 5 A Day fruit and vegetable intervention improves consumption in a low income population. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2001;101(2):195-202.

12 Herman 2008 - Herman DR, Harrison GG, Afifi AA, Jenks E. Effect of a targeted subsidy on intake of fruits and vegetables among low-income women in the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children. American Journal of Public Health. 2008;98(1):98-105.

13 Evans-Gates 2005 - Evans-Gates D. Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption among low income pregnant women and young children in the WIC farmers' market nutrition program. Philadelphia: American Public Health Association (APHA) 133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition; 2005.

14 USDA-Fox 2004 - Fox MK, Hamilton W, Lin BH. Effects of food assistance and nutrition programs on nutrition and health: WIC farmers’ market nutrition program. Washington, DC: Economic Research Service (ERS), US Department of Agriculture (USDA); 2004:3: FANRR-19-3.

15 Lieff 2016* - Lieff SA, Bangia D, Baronberg S, Burlett A, Chiasson MA. Evaluation of an educational initiative to promote shopping at farmers’ markets among the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) participants in New York City. Journal of Community Health. 2016.

16 Conrey 2003 - Conrey EJ, Frongillo EA, Dollahite JS, Griffin MR. Integrated program enhancements increased utilization of farmers’ market nutrition program. Journal of Nutrition. 2003;133(6):1841-4.

17 Saitone 2017* - Saitone TL, McLaughlin PW. Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program redemptions at California farmers’ markets: Making the program work for farmers and participants. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. 2017:1-13.

18 McDonnell 2014 - McDonnell L, Morris MN, Holland J. WIC participants’ perceived behavioral control, attitudes toward, and factors influencing behavioral intentions to redeeming cash-value vouchers at certified farmers markets. Californian Journal of Health Promotion. 2014;12(2):22-31.

19 Just 1997* - Just RE, Weninger Q. Economic evaluation of the farmers' market nutrition program. American Journal of Agricultural Economics. 1997;79(3):902-17.

20 USDA-FMNP facts 2018 - United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). WIC Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) fact sheet. 2018.

21 Ringling 2020 - Ringling KM, Marquart LF. Intersection of diet, health, and environment: Land grant universities’ role in creating platforms for sustainable food systems. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. 2020;4(70).

22 SSSA-McIvor 2017 - McIvor K. Soils in the city: Community gardens. Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). 2017.

23 CCAFS-Campbell 2012 - Campbell B. Is eating local good for the climate? Thinking beyond food miles. Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), CGIAR Research Programs. 2012.

24 USDA-SFMNP facts 2018 - United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) fact sheet. 2018.

25 CDC-5 a day - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 5 A day works! Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS); 2005.

Date Last Updated