The Missoula County Health Department is gearing up for the summer season, the Farmers Market in particular, where it will offer produce vouchers to families registered in the WIC program.

Missoula County commissioners approved an $1,800 contract from the Montana Department of Health and Human Services to help the health department train and monitor the summer program.

“The funds within this contract are to administer the program,” said Katie Devino, WIC and nutrition unit manager for the health department. “It's separate from the food dollars.”

The program provides families registered with Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, roughly $30 in vouchers earmarked for the Missoula Farmers Market.

The funding is separate from the regular WIC program, which offers vouchers for healthy foods at area supermarkets, access to preventative health programs and nutrition counseling, among other things.

Devino said WIC families must opt in for the Farmers Market program when registering for their standard WIC benefits.

“It's a nice opportunity to provide another way for our WIC families to get out and get some fresh, local foods,” Devino said. “They can buy any fresh fruit or vegetables, but they can't buy baked goods.”

Families that participate in the Farmers Market program receive an additional $30 in paper vouchers beyond their typical food support. The local health department received around $13,200 for the market program last year, though only $7,500 in vouchers were redeemed.

“The average redemption rate is around 60 percent,” Devino said. “Usually participating vendors have a sign up saying they accept WIC benefits.”