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Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program redemptions at California farmers’ markets: making the program work for farmers and participants

  • Tina L. Saitone (a1) and Patrick W. McLaughlin (a2)


Many states including California allow fruit and vegetable checks (FVCs) issued by the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program to be redeemed at farmers’ markets. Despite the potential of the FVC program to increase the revenue of participating farmers and to provide fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables to WIC participants, analysis of data for California shows that redemptions of FVCs at farmers’ markets have to date been miniscule. We study the barriers to use of FVCs at farmers’ markets and consider strategies for expanding both farmer and WIC client participation in the farmers’ market program. Our methodology involved design, implementation and analysis of surveys of both farmers’ market managers and farmer vendors who participate in the program and analysis of the behavior of WIC participants through California WIC program redemption data. One major factor limiting redemptions in California is that relatively few farmers’ markets currently accept FVCs and both market managers and farmers report that the authorization process is onerous. WIC participants who shopped at authorized markets more fully utilized the fixed-dollar value of their voucher, compared with participants who shopped at other authorized WIC vendors. Nevertheless, participants who visited a farmers’ market are unlikely to return. The study concludes with suggested pathways to increase WIC participant utilization of farmers’ markets.


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The views expressed herein are those of the authors and may not be attributed to the Economic Research Service or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.



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