Food insecure individuals are often faced with challenges to accessing healthy foods. Low-income neighborhoods frequently lack grocery stores, individuals may have transportation issues, and healthy foods may be more expensive as opposed to quick, processed foods.
In 2017, Miller and Bill Zeleske (local farmer) partnered to create the FDL Fresh 5 farmers market donation program. The program seeks to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious foods. The purpose of the program is “to better connect the fresh, local produce sold at the farmers market with families in Fond du Lac County that may have little to no access to it” and “to better connect customers and vendors with the issue of hunger in the local community while providing a simple way to address it.”
Since its inception in early August 2017, thousands of pounds of fresh produce and hundreds of dollars have been donated. From a food pantry coordinator: “On behalf of (insert pantry), thank you so much for our inclusion in the market. They are of great help to our guests. This program has been extremely beneficial.” The program has been very well received by the community. The program did not take place in summer 2020 due to COVID restrictions in place. This year, numerous farmers market vendors, food pantry staff, and health coalition leaders have asked if the program will take place this summer. Miller has begun planning for the 2021 season. The program is anticipated to begin during peak harvest in early July through the end of the farmers market season in October.
For the past 8 years, Miller has worked with the farmers market to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for all residents through the implementation of EBT (electronic benefits transfer), implementation of incentive programs (fruit & vegetable prescription and EBT match), and a marketing plan to reach under-served and diverse ‘potential’ EBT farmers market customers. This program compliments those other efforts.