July 29, 2015

Worcester 1st in U.S. in community farmers markets

Worcester has been ranked number one in the nation for bringing nutritious food to the local community through farmer's markets, according to a recent study.

The study, by BetterDoctor.com, looked at farmer's markets that accepted federal WIC credits and SNAP dollars as an indication of the markets' service of lower-income residents. Worcester, with 23 farmers markets, received a perfect score, boasting 1.26 markets per 10,000 residents.

The city's Main South market, operated by the Regional Environmental Council, and environmental justice organization in Worcester, was praised in the study for offering SNAP matching coupons as well as WIC and Senior Farmers Market coupons.

"In 2014, SNAP, WIC and (senior farmers' market nutrition program) coupons made up 48 percent of all sales – a key indicator that the market is proactively helping lower-income residents access wholesome, nutritious food," according to the study.

Improving the accessibility of low-income populations to farmers markets helps include them in the health benefits of eating fresh food, the study cited. These markets can also combat "food deserts" where neighborhood residents don't have access to affordable, nutritious food.

"Diseases like diabetes are linked to lower socio-economic status. By providing an avenue for lower-income folks to buy fresh, nutritious produce farmers markets are helping some people improve their health and possibly avoid chronic conditions," according to the study.

Worcester was the only New England city to be listed in the top 10, with New Haven, Conn., ranking 16th in the nation out of 247 cities studied.

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