BRIDGEPORT (August 7, 2013) – The East Side Farm Stand has never been more successful, thanks to an innovative collaboration between the City of Bridgeport, Wholesome Wave, and Cecarelli Farms, to bring affordable, healthy, local fruits and vegetables to Bridgeport.
Today, city, state and national officials joined Wholesome Wave to celebrate the success of this program as part of National Farmers Market Week. Wholesome Wave CEO, Michel Nischan, spoke to the impact of the Women Infant and Children (WIC) and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (SFNMP) on the East Side. In addition, families purchased local produce, sampled healthy recipes, participated in family-fun activities and learned about other health and nutrition projects in the area.
The use of federal nutrition benefits, such as WIC, SFNMP and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as SNAP or food stamps) at the East Side Farm Stand has been essential to the success of the program in bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to low income residents in Bridgeport.
Nischan said, “I love that our Double Value Coupon Program is working to dispel misconceptions of consumers who depend on food stamps to put food on the table every day. We are proving that struggling parents prefer to feed their families healthy locally grown food when the choice is affordable and accessible.”
Gus Schumacher, Wholesome Wave Executive Vice President and former USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture, said, “I am incredibly proud of how successful and popular the East Side Farm Stand has become. I especially love the fact that it’s a place where America’s military Veterans, such as Francisco Villarini, prefer to spend quality time while purchasing healthy local food. Veterans know a good bargain when they see it!” Rick Macsuga, Marketing Specialist with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, announced today that the state is committing $25,000 to support a new farmers market voucher program specifically for veterans next year.
Kristin duBay Horton, the City of Bridgeport’s Director of Health said, “Health equity and social justice is what the health department is all about… until we make sure every resident we are not going to overcome an obesity rate of over 70% in some of our neighborhoods. We are really seeing change here. Wholesome Wave is an amazing partner and pushes us to think in new ways all the time.”
East Side is one of four markets in Bridgeport where consumers can double the value of their federal nutrition benefits spent on locally grown foods. Just last year, participating Bridgeport farmers markets provided $89,192 in fresh fruits and vegetables to the local community, benefiting over 2,000 families in the city. Bridgeport has consistently been a leader in the state on bringing in federal benefits and incentive dollars to market. According to Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, these markets “help promote a sustainable, healthy lifestyle by providing access to fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables.”
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) offered his support to the effort, stating: “Fresh fruits and vegetables are critically important to the health of our families, yet we know that far too many low-income families in cities like Bridgeport lack access to affordable produce, both due to the dearth of local stores and cost barriers. I applaud the City of Bridgeport, Wholesome Wave and Cecarelli Farms for their dedication to the health of all families. Federal nutrition benefits do not go far enough today, and programs like this that help families stretch those limited dollars and access healthy food should be commended and celebrated.”
Congressman Jim Himes (D-CT) thanked Wholesome Wave and the City of Bridgeport, “… for prioritizing the fact that just because you don’t have a high income – just because you’re disadvantaged – just because you live in neighborhood that doesn’t really have a supermarket within reach – doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be able to feed your children a good healthy diet that will prepare them for success as they grow older.”
Nelson Cecarelli from Cecarelli Farms stated, “I feel like our produce is going to an area that really needs us. It is a win-win for us. The [farm stands] in Bridgeport have gotten better and better. Not only are the[y] benefiting farmers because we get to sell direct, they are also benefiting the community because in Bridgeport there is not the same availability of fresh produce as elsewhere.”
Additional organizations who took part in Bridgeport’s East Side Farm Stand Celebration included Cooking Matters, Get Healthy Connecticut, Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust, Cook & Grow and New England Conservation Services.
The East Side Farm Stand is located at 752 East Main Street, at the corner of East Main Street and Crescent Avenue. It is run as a collaborative effort between Wholesome Wave and the Department of Health and Social Services. For more information contact [email protected]
Support for this program is provided by United Way of Coastal Fairfield County and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture.
About Wholesome Wave
Wholesome Wave is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to supporting small- and mid-sized farmers and making fresh, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables available to all people, regardless of income. Wholesome Wave partners with farmers markets, community leaders, healthcare providers, like-minded nonprofits and government entities to implement programs that benefit consumers in under-served communities and the farmers who provide for them.