Austin Public Health and SFC Team up to Expand WIC Voucher Program ReacH

Food insecurity is defined by the USDA as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Prior to the start of the pandemic, food insecurity within the United States wavered around 11%, and in Texas at 14.1%. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, surveys from social media users revealed that 15% of US households and 18% of households with children experienced food insecurity. While this number has slightly decreased due to factors like higher rates of employment, inflation has posed another challenge for Americans, and particularly Texans. With the increase in prices of gas and groceries, food access outlets such as food banks are struggling to meet the demand for food.

In response to these challenges, Austin Public Health’s Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) division organized drive-thru meal kit distributions at their clinics in 2021 and early 2022. Meal kits were distributed in the form of bags filled with fresh produce and shelf-stable items. WIC consistently distributed about 100 meal kits per event, and in an effort to reach more clients, WIC recently teamed up with the SFC Farmers’ Markets to host a similar event on a larger scale. On May 14th, WIC and SFC invited 350 mothers and children living in South Austin to take part in a meal kit distribution at the SFC Farmers’ Market at Sunset Valley. In addition to receiving a fresh, healthy meal for four, clients could receive their WIC Vouchers: $30 in vouchers or coupons for clients to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ market between the months of April and October. This event brought many learning opportunities for both WIC and SFC and was a great success for the community. In a single day at the market, WIC reached three times as many families, with a total of 350 families served.



The meal kits that WIC distributed included ingredients for a one pot taco casserole: tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, beans, quinoa, and cilantro.

WIC nutritionists put together bags with the goal of providing a meal that would:

  • promote increased consumption of vegetables,
  • incorporate a wide variety of WIC approved foods,
  • encourage families to prepare home-cooked meals,
  • expose families to less-commonly known foods,
  • and most importantly, include culturally relevant foods or flavors.

Following the event, WIC staff issued a survey to attendees. They reported that 93% of respondents were able to use the meal kit to prepare the dish, while 4% reported that they had not made the meal yet but were planning to do so. These survey results show that the event successfully allowed families to prepare a meal full of fresh produce and other WIC approved foods at home.


This event was also about exposing community members to the market and allowing them to engage in the WIC Voucher Program. SFC Double Up Food Bucks associates worked alongside WIC nutritionists to verify shopping lists and ensure that visitors received their $30 worth of vouchers. With the Double Up Food Bucks program, market shoppers who qualified for WIC Vouchers also received an additional $30 in Double Up Food Bucks to be spent on fruits and vegetables. This meant that customers left with $60 to spend at any Austin-based farmers’ market accepting WIC Vouchers and Double Up Food Bucks. Most visitors shared that they had never heard of the Double Up Food Bucks program before the event. By the end of the event, SFC, in collaboration with WIC nutritionists, managed to distribute over 140 vouchers or $4,200 worth of vouchers for WIC clients to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables.


A client picking up WIC vouchers and Double Up Food Bucks at the market.


In addition to expanding food access across Travis County with the meal kit distribution and the WIC voucher issuance, the WIC and SFC event also benefited many local farmers, ranchers, and small business owners. On the day of the event, many of the farmers at the SFC Farmers’ Market at Sunset Valley sold out of their produce. Additionally, while the SFC Farmers’ Market at Sunset Valley tends to generate over $14,000 in total estimated sales, the meal kit distribution event resulted in about $18,000 in total estimated sales. Since the event, the SFC Farmers’ Market at Sunset Valley has continued to see a steady increase in total estimated sales and WIC voucher redemptions. At SFC, we call this a win-win-win for our local food system – a win for the local economy, a win for our local vendors, and a win for the community. The success of this event for our local farmers, ranchers, and small business owners speaks to the impact of the WIC Voucher Program.

Food insecurity will continue to pose challenges in our community, and this will continue to disproportionately affect families and individuals of color. While events and programs such as these will not wipe out food insecurity, they play a role in addressing the gap between producers and consumers and increase clients’ purchasing power at food outlets such as farmers’ markets.

With all that SFC and WIC learned from this event, we hope that we can find more opportunities for future collaboration to support Austin residents.