The Catawba County Public Health Farmers Market, designed to improve community health by increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables with a focus on WIC recipients, has been named a winner of an International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Program Excellence Award.
Catawba County received the honor on September 30 during ICMA’s Annual Conference in Seattle, Washington.
According to the Association web site (icma.org) the Program Excellence Awards, “celebrate the value of professional management and honor creative contributions to professional local government leadership.” The Awards highlight public awareness of the value of professional management and its impact to the quality of life in our communities. An independent Awards Evaluation Panel of 17 U.S. and international ICMA members selects each year's award recipients.
In partnership with the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, the Public Health Farmers Market works to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for WIC clients who receive Farmers Market Nutritional Program vouchers, which supplement WIC food benefits with fresh, local produce during the summer months. The presence of the market at Public Health and additional staff efforts to promote voucher use resulted in the Catawba County WIC program earning the highest redemption rate, 64.37%, of Farmers Market Nutritional Program vouchers in North Carolina in 2014.
Also in 2014, the market further enhanced community access by becoming the first farmers market in Catawba County to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food assistance benefits.
Of the customers surveyed in the summer of 2015, 90.8% said the market helped increase the amount of fresh produce their family ate. Among customers using SNAP benefits, 76.4% said the ability to use these benefits at the market helped increase their fruit and vegetable consumption.
“We are honored to be recognized by ICMA with this award,” said Doug Urland, Health Director. “Being commended on a national level creates even more opportunity for us to share what we’ve learned with other health departments who are starting similar programs in their communities.”
The Farmers Market program has also won the 2015 Alliance for Innovations Robert J. Havlick Award, considered that association’s top award for local government innovation, and a 2014 National Association of Counties (NACo) Achievement Award.