How Women and Kids in Austin Can Get Extra Money for Local Farmers Markets

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Low-income families who qualify for food benefits from the state of Texas can get a little more through October.

Through the state, certain low-income moms and kids can get Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) benefits. That includes monthly food packages that support nutritional growth, but also, once a year, WIC offers each eligible family member $30 in Farmers Market Food Access vouchers.

Sustainable Food Center, a nonprofit which hosts farmers markets, gives WIC recipients an additional $30 voucher during this period. These vouchers work at weekly farmers markets.

In Texas, low-income pregnant, breast feeding, postpartum women and their children under five qualify for WIC benefits. Founded in 2001, the Sustainable Food Center matches WIC, SNAP, and EBT benefits through the Double Up Food Bucks program. In addition to doubling monthly benefits, SFC also doubles the seasonal Farmers Market Food Access vouchers, redeemable for fruits and vegetables at SFC’s farmers markets.

National nonprofit Fair Food Network owns Double Up Food Bucks, and SFC is the main distributor in Central Texas. The Austin-based nonprofit works to support local farmers and increase access to nutritious food.

SFC hosts farmers markets on Saturdays in Sunset Valley and Downtown at Republic Square. Families can also use their vouchers at Texas Farmers Market, Chaparral Crossing Farmers’ Market, and Farmshare mobile markets.

Wanda Hernandez, Central Texas Food Access coordinator, said nutritional health is vital to support the wellbeing of pregnant and postpartum women and young children. “It gives the children a chance to have a healthier brain right from the start,” Hernandez said.

To claim vouchers, recipients must present their WIC card and shopping list at SFC’s farmer’s market booth. To be eligible for a WIC card, women and children must qualify as low income, as defined by Texas (for a single mom with one baby, the maximum income to qualify is about $33,000, and for two parents with two kids, it’s about $51,000). Families that receive Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) qualify automatically. Families can claim WIC benefits every year until their child is 5 years old. To receive a WIC card, Texas residents must find a local WIC office to apply.

The seasonal WIC vouchers expire Oct. 31, but SFC’s double up bucks vouchers never expire, Hernandez said, even when participants are no longer eligible for the WIC program. “As long as the program is being supported, they could save that Double Up for years and use it years later,” Hernandez said. “It’s so important because it gives the lower-income community a chance to receive things that they normally wouldn’t. It bridges that gap between the wealthier population that can afford to go to the farmers market, and the population that can’t.”