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Farmer’s Market opens today

By Desiree Taylor

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but what happens to those who cannot afford an apple, or a carrot for that matter?

The Dallas County Health Department and the Alabama Farmer’s Market Authority may have a solution. They will partner together to offer WIC, a supplemental nutritional program for women, infants, and children, and Food Stamp participants a way to make healthy eating choices at a low cost.

“Our main goal is to offer a nutritional program for those on WIC, and encourage them to eat more fruits and vegetables,” said Rebecca Stewart, a registered dietician for the Dallas County Health Department’s WIC program.

Today, the Dallas County’s Farmer’s Market will open at Bloch Park at 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. Stewart said the program will help: nursing mothers, pregnant women and children ages 1 to 5 make better food choices. Senior citizens can also weigh in on the benefits.

On June 28, the Dallas County Health Department will issue all WIC members a $20 coupon booklet to purchase fruits and vegetables. Twelve hundred seniors received their vouchers and can use them throughout the summer.

“Our vendors are growers from Dallas County,” said Kathi Needham, project coordinator for the Strategic Alliance (a part of Vaughn Community Health Services). “They are then certified by the Farmer’s Market Authority to be eligible to sell at the market.”

Customers can look forward to a variety of low cost, locally¬ grown produce to choose from.

“The beauty of this event is that we have so many vendors,” Needham said. “Some (growers) plant early, and some plant later. We have greens, okra, sweet potatoes, corn, etc.”

Needham expects a large turnout for today. She said the market will benefit those in need by allowing customers to use food stamps or electronic bank transfers (EBT) for purchases.

“We want to focus on healthy nutrition by changing people’s lifestyles, urging them to eat healthy, and to exercise,” she said. “Growers accepting EBT, can turn the tide so that those who can’t afford to make healthy choices can now make them.”

Needham said the goal is to make Dallas County healthier by decreasing its high hypertension, diabetes and obesity rates through better food choices, walking trails and creating vegetable gardens at local schools.

“Children who are healthier, make better grades,” she said. “A healthier work force is a better work force. We’re trying desperately to help the community make healthier choices.”

The Alabama Farmer’s Market will continue every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in Selma until the end of December. It is free and open to the public.