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Vouchers still available to help low-income residents to eat healthier

DeKALB – Bryan Crump is in his second week of the DeKalb Farmers’ Market, and he’s already noticed a trend.

Crump, of the Crump Family Garden, said quite a few people have been using vouchers to buy his produce on a weekly basis. The vouchers, which vendors can exchange for cash, are provided to low-income families and senior citizens through the KishHealth System.

“[There are] a lot of people using them that wouldn’t be here if they didn’t have them,” Crump said.

The program is designed to help those who cannot regularly afford healthier foods, said KishHealth’s Dana King. She coordinates the program with the Family Service Agency, the Center for Family Health and the DeKalb County Health Department’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

“The farmers really have embraced this,” King said. “It’s helped them a lot.”

KishHealth underwrote $7,000 in vouchers last year, which is $1,000 more than when the program was launched in 2011, King said. About 67 percent of the vouchers were used last year, helping 441 families, she said.

This year, 700 vouchers worth $10,000 were available, with some still available at participating agencies. Seven vendors at the Sycamore and DeKalb farmers markets accept the vouchers.

To qualify for the vouchers, which King said are generally only distributed to an individual or family once a year, must be involved in one of the programs that offer them. The vouchers are good toward vegetables, fruits and herbs, she said.

Farmers’ market vendors, such as Jaime Srail of Windy Acres Farm, said the vouchers are a great opportunity for those with lower incomes to access fresh, healthy produce.

“People come here and stock up on what they need,” she said. “They don’t have to worry about overspending. They know what they have.”

Crump, who accepted about 10 vouchers Thursday, said he is glad to see the program in place.

“It benefits the people and benefits the farmers,” Crump said. “It just works.”

Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the number of vouchers involved in the program.

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