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Application period opens for 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: $1,619 monthly for a household of one; $2,191 monthly for a household of two; $2,764 monthly for three; $3,335 monthly for four; $3,907 for five; $4,480 for six.

In this program, participants receive a coupon booklet of $30 in vouchers they can use to purchase delicious 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.

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