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    Posted June 4, 2014 by
    Champaign, Illinois

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    Despite higher costs Mom’s find a greater variety of vegetables

    Farmers Markets allow WIC moms to bring more fruit and vegetables to the dinner table

    In a new University of Illinois study, researchers set out to determine fruit and vegetable costs at framers markets and grocery stores and dietary intake and habits compared to farmer’s market users and non-users.

    For the study 377 participants from Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children clinic in Champaign, Illinois and completed a survey on their farmers market intake, dietary intake and habits and farmers market usage. Prices were collected biweekly from grocery stores and farmers market vendors.

    The results showed that among participants the average fruit and vegetable intake was two servings daily which was almost 70% below the national recommendation for amount of vegetables eaten daily and almost 25% did not consume the recommended amount of fruit.

    The WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is associated with WIC that provides farmers market vouchers for participants to be able to purchase fresh, unprepared locally grown fruits and vegetables which allows mothers to purchase more fruits and vegetables that normally they could not afford.

    Among the participating mothers 51% had used farmer’s market vouchers and the other 49% did not. Those who used the vouchers had eaten vegetables as snacks (57.3%) and consumed more than one vegetable a day.

    Brandon Meline, director of maternal and child health at the Champaign-Urbana (Ill.) Public Health District commented "Growing and selling fruits and vegetables locally is a vital exposure and access point for clients who have challenges with accessing and consuming enough fruits and vegetables,"

    The WIC farmer’s market voucher program has been important in giving many residents the possibility of increasing their intake variety, Meline added. "The average number of vouchers received was two at a total value of around $6.00.This may not be enough to have a significant impact on vegetable intake” According to the Economic Research Service the average cost per pound of green beans is $3.23, and a pound provides about three cups of vegetables.

    Dr. Karen Chapman-Novakofski, PhD, RD, professor of nutrition at UIUC adds "So the most direct effect the vouchers could have had on vegetable intake was about six cups of vegetables for the participant and her children. Indirectly, however, the vouchers may have contributed to the mother's choice to serve vegetables, what types of vegetables will be served, and maintaining a positive attitude about eating them. The farmers market vouchers may serve as a gateway to exposure to more fruits and vegetables, and clients would use other sources of food dollars to maintain fruit and vegetable intake.”

    According to the official Dietary Guidelines for Americans, fruits and vegetables are associated with a decreased risk of such chronic diseases such as stroke, perhaps other cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancer in certain sites.

    "Not only are vegetables low in calories, they are powerhouses of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that are important for keeping us healthy," said Dr. Chapman-Novakofski.

    Dr. Chapman-Novakofski in closing commented "This study has shaped our thinking about the way we promote these markets to economically disadvantaged women. Farmers markets are a good place to find fresh, appealing produce, and they provide a venue for cooking demonstrations and nutrition education, but economically disadvantaged moms need to be able to purchase produce at the best prices," she noted.

    "It's important to note that not all farmers markets are more expensive than supermarkets. In some areas and in different states, they are less expensive.”

    Dr. Chapman-Novakofski noted that researchers see differences in farmers market use among states that have longer growing seasons. "We'd also like to know how much of the food purchased at farmers markets is eaten. And we're interested in how consumers view the quality of farmer’s market produce and the kinds of fruits and vegetables they most often purchase."

    In their conclusion and implications the researchers write “Despite higher costs, FMs were often used. The FM users had a better vegetable intake pattern.”

    This study was published in the May 2014 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

    A new study showed that WIC participants who received farmers market vouchers had consumed ate a greater variety of vegetables and more often ate vegetables and fruits as snacks, despite the higher costs of the market.
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