Occidental College's Urban and Environmental Policy Institute is launching a nutrition-awareness campaign with a program that brings fresh local fruit to low-income mothers, babies and children in Los Angeles.
These mothers and children participate in the federally funded Women, Infants, and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program.
Over the last two years, Occidental has built a pipeline between local farmers, three WIC-only store chains, and low-income and working-class families through the College's three-year Farm-to-WIC pilot program. These stores, such as Mother's Nutritional Center, Fiesta Plaza Nutritional Products, and Prime Time Nutrition, only stock food and other items that can be purchased with federal WIC vouchers. There are 640 WIC-only stores in California.
"Many low-income communities suffer from a lack of places to buy fresh, healthy food," said Yelena Zeltser, Farm-to-WIC project manager. "WIC-only stores can act as urban neighborhood grocers in areas lacking a big chain grocery store."
Mother's Nutritional Center strongly supports the Farm-to-WIC program, said company President Richard Flores. "We are committed to increasing access to fresh, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables for our food voucher customers while supporting local farmers. Mother’s Nutritional Center is always providing our customers with the finest quality produce at the lowest pricing."
Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Farm-to-WIC pilot program has already invested more than $150,000 in the local farm economy, which provided 125 tons of local produce to WIC participants. Now the program's "Eat in Season, What's Your Reason?" campaign aims not just to educate families about good nutrition, but also about the role local farmers play in putting fresh fruit and vegetables on our plates.
Today, WIC participants and the public can buy fresh avocados from the Fallbrook-based McDaniel Fruit Company at 10 WIC-only stores in Los Angeles County. The College will be sponsoring fresh avocado tastings at six local stores in June and July, and giving away "players cards" of the local farmers providing the fruit and vegetables.
The fresh produce tastings will be held at these locations and dates, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.:
• Tuesday, June 21: Mother's Nutritional Center, 700 W. Imperial Hwy #104-5, Los Angeles
• Tuesday, June 28: Prime Time Nutrition, 5930 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
• Wednesday, June 29: Prime Time Nutrition, 10633 Valley Blvd., El Monte
• Tuesday, July 5: Fiesta Plaza, 1161 N. Maclay St., San Fernando
• Thursday, July 7: Fiesta Plaza, 1022 Chevy Chase #E, Glendale
• Monday, July 11, Mother's Nutritional Center, 6512 N Figueroa St., Los Angeles
"Our farmers are excited to participate in the Farm-to-WIC program that features fresh and healthy, locally grown produce," said Rankin McDaniel Jr. of the McDaniel Fruit Co. The family-owned company has been in business since 1959. In addition to its own groves, the company manages and packs for more than 50 small and regional groves near Temecula.
After avocados, peaches from Littlerock-based Tenerelli Orchard will be available starting this summer. And this fall, Crimson Gold crab apples from Cuyama Orchards, located in Santa Barbara County, will be sold through the Farm-to-WIC program.
Zeltser said that Oxy's Urban and Environmental Policy Institute hopes to grow the program nationally, much like it did with its national Farm-to-School program, which connects local farms with K-12 school districts in all 50 states. UEPI is the College's community-oriented research and advocacy organization; its mission is to create a more just, livable, and democratic region.
"There is so much potential with this program to help families from California to Maine eat a more healthy, balanced diet," she added. "Imagine connecting small and medium-sized orchards and farms with low-income and working-class families all across the country. The benefit will pay health dividends for years to come."