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franklin county times

SFMNP continues to offer benefit card

Seniors who are interested in getting more access to fresh fruits and veggies still have time to take advantage of a state program that helps make it possible.

The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program is a federally-funded initiative administered by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries’ Farmers Market Authority Section.

It provides eligible seniors with a $30 benefit card to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from certified farmers at farmers markets and farm stands in the state of Alabama.

This year’s program was launched in January, and funds are still available. Market season is here, and seniors who have already applied should receive their benefit card later this month.

“This program helps to provide senior citizens access to locally-grown fruit and vegetables and increases consumption of healthy food items,” noted Franklin County Extension Coordinator Katernia Cole Coffey earlier this year. The Extension administers the SFMNP locally, and Coffey said the program also “helps to market the local farmers markets. The vouchers help to get more people out to explore what the farmers markets have to offer.”

To be eligible, applicants must be 60 or older and have a maximum monthly household income of $1,772 for a household of one or $2,396 for a household of two. 

Seniors must apply online at http://fma.alabama.gov. Although applications cannot be taken over the phone or by mail, Franklin County residents can get assistance applying at the Extension. “Since 2008 the Franklin County Extension Office has signed Franklin County senior citizens up for the vouchers who might not have access to a computer,” Coffey noted. “As a reminder, senior citizens have to sign up or renew their information each year.”

For 2022, the benefit card replaces the paper vouchers issued in the past. Seniors are encouraged to keep this card in a safe place, as benefits will be loaded to this same card annually in the years to come after an application is submitted.

When purchasing Alabama-grown fresh fruits or vegetables from authorized farmers, seniors can present the benefit card just like a debit or credit card. The seller will scan the card and enter the amount of the purchase. The customer will confirm the amount, and then the purchase is complete. 

Benefits can be redeemed at state-certified farmers markets, farm stands and u-pick operations for the purchase of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, honey and cut herbs from May through Nov. 15, 2022. Sites in Franklin County include both the Franklin County Farmers Market, adjacent to the A.W. Todd Centre in Russellville, and the Red Bay Farmers Market, based at the Family Fun Park in Red Bay. 

For more information about the SFMNP, visit  http://fma.alabama.gov or call 334-240-7247. For income limits for households with more than two people, visit http://fma.alabama.gov/SeniorNutrition. 

The Franklin County Extension is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. – with a closure from noon to 12:30 p.m. for lunch – to assist seniors, who may call 256-332-8880 to sign up or for more information.