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Community food project proposed for Wadena families

The Wadena Growers Association is looking to increase healthy food access.

Dianne Webb, with the Wadena Growers Association, asked the Wadena City Council to write a letter of recommendation for the Wadena Farmers Market to help the organization in applying for grant funding to start a new program.

"The primary goal is to create innovative marketing activities that mutually benefit agricultural producers and low-income consumers," she said.

The association is working with Tri-County Health Care Foundation and the University of Minnesota - Extension to offer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables to families.

"It's a weekly delivery of fresh produce throughout the season," Webb said.

To start, in 2017 the group is hoping to supply 30 families with shares of CSA boxes. These will be half shares so 15 families will be served each week in a rotation totalling 30.

The families receiving CSA boxes will be referred from the hospital/clinic, public health programs, the I Can Prevent Diabetes classes and other locations where low-income consumers visit. To organize the CSA box aggregation and distribution, a part-time coordinator will be hired during the growing season. Additionally, the University of Minnesota Extension - SNAP Ed educator will provide cooking demonstrations at the Wadena Farmers Market to show how to use the produce.

"Some of the grant applications we've been looking at want to make sure it's a community project," Webb said, and that's why she is asking for a letter of support from the city.

The total cost of CSA boxes is $9,000 and the cost of the project coordinator is $5,280.

Wadena Mayor George Deiss said he thought it was a wonderful idea and said the farmers market was a very good addition to the community.

The market has grown over the years.

When the Wadena Farmers Market opened on Highway 71 north in 2010, there were between two and four vendors. This year, there were 15 vendors.

"We have a nice variety of people that come to our farmers market," Webb said.

On peak days in August, there are typically between 335 and 350 people who attend the market. Other times of year there are 150-200 people. The market runs from mid-May through mid-October.

The market has offered SNAP/EBT benefits since 2012, which is becoming widely used. In 2012, about $200 was spent using EBT and this year EBT spending was about $1,600. EBT spenders were able to receive matching market bucks as well.

"We were one of the first markets to offer that program," Webb said.

The council was in consensus of supporting a recommendation for the farmers market.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561
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