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SA farmers markets accepts WIC vouchers, Lone Star cards

Efforts designed to help low-income access healthy produce

SAN ANTONIO - San Antonio's growing appetite for melons, beans and squash fresh from the farm was evident Tuesday morning as the farmers market  at McCullough and Jackson Keller buzzed with customers.

Many traded cash for cucumbers, but farmers say they are seeing an increasing number of vouchers as government programs work with farmers to help lower-income families have access to healthy fruits and vegetables.

"I think this is wonderful for them to be able to have fresh produce, something they need that is good for their health," said Soveida Trevino, who was helping her mother buy watermelon and potatoes with the voucher she received from her seniors' nutrition center.

Clients of the state's Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program can get vouchers and redeem them for produce at San Antonio Farmers Market Association sites. 

Celia Rios with Peralta Farms said she's seen plenty of senior citizen nutrition vouchers, but not as many WIC takers.

"We haven't seen quite as many as we would like to see," she said.

The slow-going with young mothers taking advantage of the fresh produce is attributed to a generation gap, according to Juan Gonzalez, president of the SA Farmers Market Association.

"They are learning the difference between homegrown stuff and what I call factory farms," he said.

A roadside sign also let customers know they take Lone Star plastic, or SNAP food stamps.

In a pilot program, the State Department of Agriculture provided some markets with handheld Electronic Benefit Transfer machines so the Lone Star cards could easily be swiped at the point of purchase.

The farmers get reimbursed and families get access to healthy choices, something Rios called a win-win.

"So, it's beneficial for both the customer and us as well," she said.


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