Project FRESH is an educational program providing eligible participants with coupons to purchase locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmer’s markets.
The program helps many people, including children, ages 1-4; pregnant, breastfeeding, or post-partum non-breastfeeding women; and seniors. In addition, it benefits farmers and local economies.
Known in Michigan as Project FRESH (Farm Resources Expanding and Supporting Health), it originated from the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program in 1986 in several states across the country. In 1988, Congress authorized a three-year demonstration project to test the concept in 10 states. The project’s success led Congress to enact the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Act of 1992, which provides supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education to those found to be at nutritional risk.
Project FRESH was administered by the Michigan Department of Agriculture as a federal pilot in 1989 and 1990. In 1993, after a two-year hiatus, the program was transferred to the Michigan Department of Community Health where it remains today.
The program helps participants learn how to:
- Choose new locally grown produce
- Prepare a fruit or vegetable in a new way
- Store and preserve fresh fruits and vegetables
- Increase fruit and vegetable consumption
- Find other community resources that can benefit the participant
In order to qualify for either WIC (Women, Infants, Children) or Senior Project FRESH a family must earn no more than 185% of the federally defined poverty level.
Statistics from 2007/2008 show that more than 37,000 clients and 800 farmers in 75 Michigan counties participated.