Project FRESH blends food program benefits with local produce

Posted at 6:22 PM, Jun 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-01 18:45:21-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- There's a new way for people in need to get fresh fruits and vegetables on their tables, and support local farms at the same time. The new program is offered through the Kent County Health Department.

Community clinical services director, Chris Bendekgey explains,  “It's to help get fresh fruits and vegetables into the intercity, the population that historically didn’t have access to fruits and vegetables. The program has exploded over the years and has turned into what we have today where we are the first in the national to be able to do something like this.”

Kent County is first in the nation to offer the electronic card-based service. WIC cards can be used to buy foods at most grocery stores, but the $20 credit participants get for attending the seminar can only be spent at local, Michigan farmers markets and roadside stands. If people can't get the market, the health department has an answer.

“One of the unique things that we’ve done this year is we’ve actually brought the farmers markets to the client," says Bendekgey, "so our classes that are held at each of our facilities as well as our classes that are held at the metro health hospital right on campus, they can leave the class and go right to the farmers market.”

At each class individuals will learn nutritional tips, recipes and after the class each person gets an insulated produce bag and a $20 credit on their WIC card which can only be used at farmers markets that participate in the program.

WIC project is seasonal and runs from June to October.