A new law could soon have more Missourians on nutrition assistance going to farmers’ markets.

Representative Martha Stevens (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Language in House Bill 432 will bring the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) within the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program back to Missouri.  This will allow those receiving WIC assistance to use vouchers at farmers markets. 

      Missouri previously participated in the program up until more than a decade ago. 

      The FMNP language was from a standalone bill (House Bill 652) filed by Representative Martha Stevens (D-Columbia), whose background is in social work. 

      “It’s a way to address food insecurity, which is a significant issue in our state for low-income families.  It’s a way to support new moms and young children that are at nutritional risk.  It’s a way to draw down federal dollars to be distributed in our local economy, and it’s a way to support local farmers, but also for some families, potentially this might be their first introduction to a community farmers’ market, so the hope is that they’ll continue to use those markets going further even when they don’t potentially qualify for WIC benefits.”

      She said initially it will be couched in the existing Seniors’ Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program in the counties that offer it.

      “The hope is that after this is established that this is a program that can grow across the state.  We could even, potentially, receive more of the grant money from the USDA to grow that program,” said Stevens.

      The program will be maintained by the state Department of Agriculture, which must submit to the USDA by November an implementation plan.   Stevens said it will likely be next year before WIC recipients in Missouri can get vouchers, as the program funding is grant based.

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