Wholesome Wave provides funds for farm markets

AFP Correspondent

Bridgeport, Conn. (Feb. 1, 2015) — Up to 26 farmers markets around New Jersey could benefit from incentives from the USDA through the non-profit Wholesome Wave.
Fiona McBride, communications assistant with the Connecticut-based group, said their latest Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive grant application, if approved, will add more farmers markets to the 350 Wholesome Wave partners with nationwide.
Wholesome Wave was founded in 2007 by Michel Nischan, a James Beard Award-winning chef and restauranteur, Gus Schumacher, a former Undersecretary of Agriculture for Food and Foreign Services, and the late Michael Batterberry, founder of Food and Wine Magazine, according to the group’s website. The mission of Wholesome Wave is to “enable people in underserved urban and rural communities to make healthier food choices by increasing affordability and access to fresh, locally grown foods,” according to the website’s mission statement. A corollary to that is to increase profitability of small and mid-sized farms.
The founders ran a pilot program in Maryland that was so successful it expanded rapidly.
“We work with farmers’ markets and CSAs,” McBride said, noting Wholesome Wave provides seed money and technical help with the goal of helping them serve people on federal programs such as SNAP, WIC or senior citizen programs.
“We have Webinars on the EBT machines,” McBride added.
The group also facilitates communication among its partners and provides tool kits to help them best serve the community of people on assistance.
A portion of the grant money, and that raised through individual donors, is used to double the value of these assistance programs at farmers’ markets to increase nutrition for the consumer.
So far, Wholesome Wave works with City Green, serving Paterson and Passaic, and with the Greensgrow Philadelphia Project, which serves the Philadelphia and Camden area. Greensgrow operates a farm market and CSA and also offers an urban farming course for teens and conducts farm tours.
Initially, Wholesome Wave partnered with markets with whom they already had a relationship, but by the second year of operation it was receiving requests from other farm markets.
A partner merely has to be able to implement the program and collect data on it as well as be willing to “participate in policy advocacy at the state and federal level,” McBride said. Additionally, of course, it must be in a community that needs what Wholesome Wave offers.
By encouraging people to spend their assistance money at farmers’ markets, Wholesome Wave boosts local economies, the website says.