Senate votes to revive food assistance program at farmers markets for women and children

By: - April 1, 2022 11:20 am
Fresh fruit and vegetables

Sen. Becky Whitley said the program would provide health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables. (Justin Sullivan | Getty Images)

The Senate voted Thursday to revive a food assistance program that helps low-income moms and children purchase fresh food at local farmers markets.

Senate Bill 403 would reintroduce a nutrition program that has been dormant in New Hampshire for around a decade, Sen. Becky Whitley, a Hopkinton Democrat who sponsored the legislation, told lawmakers on Thursday.

If established, the program would provide coupons for moms and children to redeem at designated farmers markets. This could benefit the approximately 10,000 low-income families who are currently served by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (often called WIC), according to Lissa Sirois, who administers the program for the Department of Health and Human Services. Families whose income is at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level qualify for the program.

The bill looked set to fail ahead of Thursday’s vote, with the Finance Committee having voted, 4-3, against funding the program, which would cost the state $300,000 in 2023. Sen. Gary Daniels said the committee felt that rather than restart an old program, the Legislature should instead modify farmers market regulations or the current WIC program.

But Whitley said restarting the program would allow for more federal money to come to the state. The state’s contribution goes toward covering administrative costs of the program. “Federal funds support 100 percent of the food cost and 70 percent of the admin costs,” Whitley told lawmakers. “So a tiny investment has a big bang for your buck.”

She argued that the program would put federal dollars into the local economy, provide health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables, and provide new opportunities for local farmers to sell their produce. It would expand on the Farmers Market Program the state has already approved through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.  

The bill passed the Senate on a voice vote, after the interim study motion was defeated. It will now make its way to the House.

You can find a WIC clinic at or call the State WIC Agency at 1-800-942-4321. There is an online pre-application tool to start applying for WIC services. 

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee reported on energy and environment for New Hampshire Bulletin. She also previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.