Just five years ago, co-founders Michel Nischan and Gus Schumacher behind the Connecticut nonprofit Wholesome Wave began integrating farmers with an unlikely demographic: those receiving federal support from food stamps. Since then, the so-called Double Value Coupon Program (DVCP) has expanded to more than half of U.S. states, allowing people to use food stamps at farmer’s markets and resulting in purchases exceeding $2 million for over 2,500 farmers. Wholesome Wave has been endorsed by the Obama administration, and has a multitude of high profile sponsors. Nischan, a former chef and friend of the late Paul Newman, secured funding support from Newman’s Own Foundation, while Schumacher, with over three decades’ worth of experience in agricultural policy, knew plenty of farmers to kickstart the program. As Nichan notes: “Gus is the type of person to get out there and meet people. He shook a lot of hands and met a lot of farmers.”
While the programs run in urban communities across the country, the data team at Wholesome Wave works to survey thousands of participants and receive up-to-date statistics on various regions. In 2010 they began collaborating with doctors in their Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, aimed at instilling healthy eating habits in patients with diet-related health issues. Now Nischan is hoping the recent farm bill, which contains a section related to federal support for DVCP, will pass through Congress.