Summer brings an abundance of vegetables, fruits, and herbs for fresh, healthy meals. But many have trouble making ends meet, and farmers market produce usually gets tossed from tight budgets in favor of cheaper alternatives. The Farmers Market Nutrition Program is designed to help low-income seniors, pregnant women, new mothers and children to enjoy the bounty of the summer produce season.
The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (SFMNP), provides low-income older adults with four vouchers totaling $20 that can be exchanged for fruits and vegetables grown by farmers in the state where the vouchers are issued. The vouchers can’t be used on processed foods, baked goods, citrus or tropical fruits. To qualify for the program, individuals must be at least 60 years old and have household incomes of not more than 185% of the federal poverty income guidelines . Some agencies accept proof of participation or enrollment in another means-tested program, such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, for SFMNP eligibility. A similar program, the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program, offers vouchers to low-income pregnant and post-partum women, as well as infants and children up to age 5.
Information about the senior program in each state is available here. You can find out about the WIC program in every state here. If you are already a participant in the the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly know as food stamps, you probably know how to get this additional help, but if you’re not a SNAP recipient and you can’t get the information from the resource listed above, try the Department of Agriculture in your state. Here’s a list of state contacts. This program has been funded with $20 million from Congress, and in some states, additional money has been allocated.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, up to 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted. However, one in six people have no access to fresh food. To help fill the gaps in food availability, many farmers’ markets have joined with food banks, local businesses, and other institutions to offer free food markets to the public. Feeding America also helps organize produce events and deliveries to food banks. Philabundance sets up regular pick-up points for those in need of fresh produce. Watch your local events calendars in late spring, summer and autumn for these types of markets in your area.
For more ways to save on food: