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franklin county times

Apply now for Farmers Market Nutrition Program

FILE PHOTO The Russellville Farmers Market is empty now, but with spring will return the hustle and bustle of fresh, locally-grown produce changing hands. Qualifying senior citizens can get their hands on more fruits and veggies by signing up for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.
FILE PHOTO
The Russellville Farmers Market is empty now, but with spring will return the hustle and bustle of fresh, locally-grown produce changing hands. Qualifying senior citizens can get their hands on more fruits and veggies by signing up for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

The time has come for local seniors to apply for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. Applicants must be 60 years or older at the time of application and meet household income guidelines. Income may not exceed the following: $1,634 monthly for a household of one; $2,203 monthly for a household of two; $2,772 monthly for three; $3,341 monthly for four; $3,911 for five; or $4,480 for six.

In this program, participants receive a coupon booklet of vouchers they can use to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at the local farmers’ market. According to Katernia Cole-Coffey at the Franklin County Extension, 400-600 people sign up locally.

Fewer than one-third of senior citizens in the United States eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, which are vital to preventing and treating health problems, Cole-Coffey said. The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program addresses this public health concern by incentivizing seniors to buy fresh produce from local farmers. The goal of the program is to increase low-income seniors’ access to nutritious, local foods and to aid in the expansion and development of local markets.

Residents must sign up again each year; there will be no carry-over from last year’s participants. Coupons are valid at both the Franklin County Farmers Market in Russellville and the Red Bay Farmers Market.

SFMNP was established in 2001 as a USDA pilot program designed to improve low-income seniors’ diets. The 2002 Farm Bill permanently authorized the program and provided $15 million per year to implement and expand it. The 2008 Farm Bill increased mandatory funding to $20.6 million per year through 2012. Despite a provision in the House-passed farm bill to merge SFMNP with another program and cut its funding in half, the final 2014 Farm Bill maintains the current $20.6 million per year funding level.

For assistance in signing up, call the Extension at 256-332-8880 or sign up online at http://www.fma.alabama.gov/seniornutrition. When calling the Extension, seniors are requested to have all information ready.

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