Health

Challenging the Stigma of Food Assistance Programs

Former WIC Client Creates New Program with Arcadia Mobile Market

As a new mom Samantha Pounder was navigating the new responsibilities that come with motherhood. Pounder and her husband would soon have a shared experience with many around the world during the massive pandemic in 2020.

The Ponders were laid off from their jobs during the first few months of parenthood and found themselves raising a new baby amid a life-threatening global calamity. Pounder qualified for WIC, the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program designed to ensure mothers and children have sustainable food access.

“I hadn’t used government assistance before, but I ended up enrolling in the WIC program… I was approved and started receiving checks and I never actually spent a single dollar because it was so confusing for me to use… [There was] a little bit of a stigma involved… I got anxious around it,” said Pounder.

Samantha Ponder, director of Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture (Courtesy photo)
Samantha Ponder, director of Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture (Courtesy photo)

Nearly a year later after being laid off from her job, Pounder was hired as food access director of the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, an 11-year-old organization that focuses on global food insecurity issues. It was all a coincidence, but she used her experience of being on the WIC program to create a more seamless process for women to purchase food with WIC checks in her new role.

“I wanted to do something about it to make it easier for moms to redeem WIC… I had the privilege to use other funds and not have to rely solely on WIC but if you’re not in that situation and have no other choice then it does require a fair amount of work to understand how the program works,” said Pounder.

Pounder and her team created an online form that allows women to create a cart of the goods they wanted to purchase at one of Acadia’s mobile markets around the city. Mobile Market provides sustainable organic foods to those who are on food assistance programs.

The form gives customers the opportunity to choose how they want their food gathered. They have the option to allow the market to make a basket full of goods or customers can pick out what they specifically want to purchase. They are then able to pick up their order at one of the markets and pay with their check without waiting in lines.

Mobile Market takes many forms of payment to give the opportunity for anyone to purchase healthy foods. The market is a produce plus vendor which allows those who are part of the produce plus program to use a total of $200 over a period of ten weeks, however, those funds can only be used on produce itself. EBT and WIC checks can also be used to purchase items at the market for double the value and Cash and Debit/Credit are also options to purchase goods.

Arcadia’s mobile market schedule can be found on their website and access to the WIC shopping form is posted there, too.

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