Wholesome Wave grant helps Madison residents access healthy food

National nonprofit Wholesome Wave awarded the City of Madison a grant to help north side community members having trouble putting food on the table.

The $23,120 grant is going towards a fruit and vegetable pilot program. The program distributes food coupons and vouchers to be used at any Willy Street Co-Op location.

The pilot started Feb. 1 and is set to help 150 patients who are not consuming adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables. But Food Policy Director George Reistad of the Madison mayor’s office said this is not enough to meet the need.

“We’ve discovered there’s a great demand for economic supports to procure food,” Reistad said. “We’re more than halfway through the number of enrollees in three week’s time. So there really are a lot of hungry people out there.”

Reistad explained the existing qualifications for who needs help accessing food doesn’t convey a clear enough picture.

“Just because you’re not eligible for WIC or SNAP doesn’t mean that you might not be hungry some of the time,” Reistad said. “I think that’s what this program is actually going to illuminate and highlight is that there is a great need that exists outside of just the people we consider to be hungry or food insecure.”

Doctors at UW Health’s Northeast Family Medical Center have been identifying those who aren’t eligible for these government-funded programs but still need better access to food.

The program is a proactive measure to use food as medicine to prevent illness.