At his April 23 daily coronavirus briefing, Governor Pete Ricketts discussed guidelines for farmers’ markets, nurseries, and garden centers as they operate during the ongoing public health emergency. The Governor also highlighted resources available to families in need through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) Director Steve Wellman joined the Governor at the briefing. He talked about safely setting up and shopping at farmers’ markets and garden centers. He also announced the formation of a Detasseling Task Force to ensure the safety of Nebraskans working in fields this summer.
Caryn Vincent, Strategic Advisor for the Division of Public Health within the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), also took part in today’s news conference. She reviewed the eligibility requirements and benefits of the WIC program.
Gov. Ricketts: 21 Days to Keep Nebraska HealthyWe are now on Day 14 of the “21 Days to Stay Home and Stay Healthy” campaign. We’re two-thirds of the way there! I want to remind people of our Six Rules to Keep Nebraska Healthy.
Stay home. No non-essential errands and no social gatherings. Respect the ten-person limit. Socially distance your work. Work from home or use the six-foot rule as much as possible in the workplace. Shop alone and only shop once a week. Do not take family with you. Help kids follow social distancing. Play at home. No group sports. And no playgrounds. Help seniors stay at home by shopping for them. Do not visit long-term care facilities. Exercise daily at home or with an appropriately socially-distanced activity.
Gov. Ricketts: Test Nebraska ReminderNebraskans have completed just under 50,735 assessments as of this morning. We need every Nebraskan to go to TestNebraska.com to fill out this quick assessment. Nebraska has been #1 in Census response and #1 in enrolling folks in the Payroll Protection Program. Let’s be #1 in testing assessment as well! Again, the website is TestNebraska.com. Please go on social media and use #TestNebraskaChallenge to challenge five friends to take the assessment with you.
Director Wellman: Farmers’ Markets and Garden CentersIt’s springtime, which is time for farmers to plant crops and for gardeners to be out in their yards. Tomorrow is Arbor Day. I invite Nebraskans to take part in the great tradition—started by J. Sterling Morton—by planting a tree. NDA has issued guidelines for nurseries and garden centers during COVID-19: nda.nebraska.gov/COVID-19/GuidanceNurseriesGardenCenters.pdf
The general physical distancing rules apply to these retailers. Nurseries and garden centers should heed state and local directed health measures. They should also provide extra space for customers and help to direct foot traffic. NDA also has guidance available for farmers’ markets: nda.nebraska.gov/COVID-19/FarmersMarketGuidance.pdf
Vendors should not hand out samples of food. They should also have plentiful sanitizers available for customers. Customers should appropriately distance themselves from one another. They are also encouraged to wear masks while shopping. Customers should touch only what they intend to purchase. NDA offers coupons to WIC participants that can be used for purchases at farmers’ markets.
Call NDA for information on accessing the coupons at 402-471-2341. The State is setting up a Detasseling Task Force.
Detasselers provide a vital service to our agricultural community. Around 7,000 Nebraskans detassel each year. We want to do everything we can to protect detasselers as they prepare to work in the fields this summer. The task force has participation from seed companies and detasseling contractors. We’ll also be bringing growers onto the task force. USDA has announced a program to give $16 billion in direct aid to farmers and ranchers.
The Farm Service Agency will administer the direct aid. Details of the program are still in development. USDA has also announced that it will purchase $3 billion of food to assist ag producers and food distributors.
Caryn Vincent: WIC ProgramWIC is a federally funded program that gives free healthy foods, nutrition education, and breastfeeding support to income-eligible women who are pregnant (or have just had a baby), infants, and children under five years old. Nebraska WIC serves approximately 33,000 women and children each month, at over 100 sites across the state. That number is expected to increase due to the current pandemic. All caregivers of children up to five years old are welcome to apply for their child. The WIC program often has fathers, guardians, or foster parents apply for their children. WIC can put healthy foods on the table for families experiencing food insecurity. WIC has different food packages that include specific, nutrient rich foods for a pregnant mother, infant or child, or a woman who is breastfeeding. WIC provides an electronic card, similar to a debit card, that can be used to buy foods at the grocery store. Families who participate in SNAP or Medicaid are automatically income-eligible for WIC. WIC’s income guidelines are generous and some families may qualify without realizing it. For example, a family of four with a gross income of $47,638 would be eligible for WIC. The best way to know if you qualify is by visiting the website signupwic.com and calling a WIC office near you. You can also find WIC’s income guidelines on the Nebraska DHHS WIC website: dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/WIC.aspx. In addition to free healthy food, families that participate in WIC also get free nutrition and health education. Given the current public health situation, nutrition, breastfeeding, and health education is now happening over the phone rather than in-person. WIC also has a network of nurses, dietitians, lactation consultants, and other moms who help women with their breastfeeding goals. At each WIC appointment, moms have access breastfeeding support.