USDA program to help low-income seniors buy farmers-market produce

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN
Low-income Kansas seniors in Hillsboro and Peabody will have access to homegrown fruits, vegetables and herbs at farmers markets beginning July 1, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department on Agriculture.

They will join seniors in 17 other Kansas counties receiving grant funds for the 2006 Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, according to the Kansas Department on Aging.

“This is a wonderful win-win program for older Kansans and the local farmers who produce fresh fruits and vegetables in these communities,” said Julie Govert Walter, executive director of the North Central-Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging, with headquarters in Manhattan.

“This will be a great blessing for many seniors in this part of Kansas. It promotes better nutrition among low-income seniors and it expands the revenue base for farmers marketing fresh, locally grown produce.”

Walter said Kansans over age 60 with incomes of $12,740 a year or less may be eligible. Kansas couples age 60 and older with incomes of $17,160 a year or less are also eligible.

Kansas was awarded $178,539 in federal funds to continue providing low-income seniors with pre-printed “cheques” or coupons that eligible seniors can exchange for fresh produce at farmers’ markets, roadside stands and community-supported agriculture programs.

The cheques are available through participating senior centers and local food-aid agencies.

Officials estimate that about 6,000 low-income Kansans over the age of 60 will participate in the program. Each may receive a total of $30 worth of cheques that can be used to buy fresh, Kansas-grown fruits, vegetables and herbs at farmers’ markets and roadside stands participating in the program.

More than 150 farmers participated in the program last year. The eligible farmers and roadside stands are authorized to accept the $2 coupons, which can be cashed or deposited at their local bank.

To be eligible, participants must be at least 60 years of age and have a household income below 130 percent of the poverty level if they are a The Emergency Food Assistance Program or Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) customer.

They must be below 100 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines if they receive services through the Older Americans Act (OAA) Congregate Nutrition program. The fresh produce is distributed by local non-profit organizations that implement these programs.

The 2002 Farm Bill authorized the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program for fiscal years 2003 through 2007.

The U.S. Department on Agriculture expects the grants to serve more than 800,000 low-income seniors across the nation. Kansas has participated in the program since 2003.


How to participate

Following is information about the farmers’ markets in Hillsboro and Peabody participating in the Senior Farmers’ Nutrition Program.

Hillsboro: 5 to 8 p.m., Thursdays, Main & Grand. Get cheques by calling: 620-382-3580, 620-947-2304, 620-983-2226 or 785-776-9294.

Peabody: 6 a.m. to noon Saturday, South Walnut Street & Santa Fe Park. Get cheques by calling: 620-382-3580, 620-947-2304, 620-983-2226 or 785-776-9294.

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