Amanda Miller, FoodWIse Coordinator, Health & Well-Being Educator
According to the most recent county health assessment, 7% of Fond du Lac County residents live in a food desert area and have limited access to healthy foods. Food deserts are urban areas in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh foods. Many people with limited incomes live in food deserts, where they may have access to plenty of food, but little to none of it is healthy. A person may have to walk to a nearby convenience store, but cannot access a full grocery store with healthier options.
There are numerous food desert areas within Fond du Lac County and the City of Fond du Lac, including the area in which the downtown Fond du Lac Farmers Market is located. Farmers markets have grown increasingly important to playing a role in addressing the health and food security of their local communities. In recent years, more and more farmers markets are located in rural areas (or food deserts) and accepting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), called FoodShare in Wisconsin. Nearly a decade ago, Amanda Miller (UW-Madison Extension), Fond du Lac County Living Well FDL, and the Downtown Fond du Lac Partnership partnered together to implement EBT (electronic benefits transfer) to accept FoodShare. Since then, Miller has worked together with a variety of community partners to address food insecurity by implementing programs at the local farmers market. This includes: coordinating the Small Steps UnitedHealthCare fruit and vegetable prescription program, implementing the Double Days incentive program (match dollars for FoodShare users), administering the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) marketing grants to promote EBT at the farmers market to LatinX and Hmong community members, attempting to implement the senior farmers market voucher program, promoting the WIC farmers market voucher program, and coordinating the FDL Fresh 5 farmers market donation program. Miller has also been a member of the Fond du Lac Farmers Market Steering Committee for many years now.
All of these programs are currently successful and making a difference for Fond du Lac County families. It is true that farmers markets are a key resource to increasing nutrition and bettering the health of community members.