During the summer of 2019, the Ohio Department of Aging announced that part of the state budget for 2020-21 would include funding to support an increase in access to healthy, locally grown, fresh fruits and vegetables for older Ohioans. Historically, this type of access has been offered through the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, which provides eligible older adults with $50 in coupons each growing season to use at participating farmers’ markets and roadside stands to purchase produce.
The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) is a federally funded program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services Agency and in Ohio by the Ohio Department of Aging (ODA). The ODA provides additional state funds to support SFMNP operation within Ohio.
Prior to the expansion of funding in Ohio, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program was available in 45 of Ohio’s 88 counties. In the Area Agency on Aging District 7’s (AAA7) 10-county district, Ross County was the lone county that was designated to participate in the program. Now, thanks to the increased funding in the state budget, the AAA7 is able to expand the SFMNP to the other counties in the district including Adams, Brown, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Pike, Scioto and Vinton.
As part of the expansion process, the AAA7 is seeking farmers to participate in the SFMNP from the nine counties that have been added to the project. To become a participating farmer, the following criteria must be met:
· Must be an individual who grows and sells authorized, local produce, herbs and/or honey at farmers’ markets or road stands in the nine counties mentioned beforehand.
· Participate in a training for new farmers participating in the SFMNP.
· Follow and comply with guidelines and responsibilities as set forth by the Ohio SFMNP.
· Provide information to the appropriate oversight agencies about the farmers’ market/roadside stand including name, location, hours of operation and other operational information.
· Meet set USDA regulations and meet any training requirements as determined.
“We at Area Agency on Aging District 7 are committed to rolling out this exceptional program throughout our region,” said Nina R. Keller, executive director of the AAA7. “For many years we have requested expansion money so eligible individuals in all of our 10-county region would have the opportunity to improve their nutrition through increasing their consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. This is a win for the individual senior and for the farmer who can receive reimbursement for their locally grown produce. We encourage individuals who might be eligible and farmers who want to participate to contact us today!”
Any farmers who are interested can print an application online by visiting the AAA7’s website at www.aaa7.org. Farmers can also call the agency toll-free at 1-800-343-8112 with any questions or email FarmersMarket@aaa7.org.
Submitted by Jenni Lewis, director of community outreach and training, Area Agency on Aging District 7, Inc.