PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
May 22, 2019

Shereef Elnahal

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Smaller Farms Can Now Become WIC-Authorized Farmers’ Markets

Farms less than five acres and those that accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can now qualify as authorized farmers’ markets in the Department of Health’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

The WIC program oversees the federally-funded Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). Historically, only farmers that grew food on five acres of land or more were authorized to accept WIC vouchers.

In January 2018, New Jersey passed a law allowing farmers or farmers’ markets that were authorized to accept SNAP benefits through the New Jersey Department of Human Services to automatically accept FMNP and SFMNP benefits.

The WIC program expanded the interpretation of this law to include authorization of all farmers’ markets for FMNP and SFMNP benefits, regardless of SNAP authorization. Now, not only can farmers be authorized, but also farmers’ markets who enroll a “grower,” or an entity that has less than five acres of land that produces food for human consumption and is willing to participate in a WIC-authorized farmers’ market. 

“Last year, redemption rates for the Farmers’ Market and Senior Farmers’ Market programs were 58 percent and 81 percent respectively. This represents missed opportunities for families in need to access nutritious food,” Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said. “With these additional qualified markets, we hope to increase the availability of healthier food choices to participants and increase redemption rates this season.”

This month, the Department is authorizing markets for the season that begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30. For a farmers’ market to be eligible, they must sell locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce must be grown by the participating farmer or grower.

Farmers markets increase access to nutritious food, support healthy communities, address food insecurity, preserve farmland and stimulate local economies. Eligible WIC participants can trade their checks for locally-grown fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs. Participants receive their checks during their regular visits to local WIC agencies.

There are currently 172 certified farmers statewide serving all 21 New Jersey counties.

The total value of a FMNP voucher for an entire family depends on family size and situation. For example:

  • Each pregnant woman eligible for WIC can receive two $10 vouchers per season ($20)
  • Each breastfeeding mother eligible for WIC can receive two $10 vouchers ($20)
  • Each child between the ages of 2 and 5-years-old can receive two $10 vouchers ($20)

SFMNP participants must be at least 60 years old and meet certain federal income requirements. Each eligible senior can receive five, $5 vouchers per season ($25).

The FMNP began in 1992 and became so popular that a similar program was created for low-income seniors in 2001. The Department receives about $2 million annually in federal dollars to operate these programs. Both initiatives provide eligible participants with nutritious fruits, vegetables and herbs from farmers’ markets, where they can also redeem their cash value vouchers. Other goals include expanding awareness of the nutritional benefits of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs as well as increasing the sales of locally grown produce.

Any farmer or farmers’ market is encouraged to apply to the WIC program by calling 609-292-9560. Visit the Department’s WIC webpage here.

Follow New Jersey Health Commissioner Elnahal on Twitter.

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Last Reviewed: 5/22/2019