Farmers market offers vouchers for those 60-plus

Fresh fruits and vegetables are available at a discounted price to those older than 60 through the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

The program provides coupons for low-income seniors in Alabama to purchase eligible foods from farmers at farmers markets or roadside stands.

The vouchers are so important because they help participants in the program stretch their food dollars,” explained Franklin County Extension Director Katernia Cole-Coffey. “You can go to the farmers market, purchase some fresh okra or squash and put those items with some items you already have, such as dried beans and some cornbread, and you have a meal.”

Franklin County has been participating in this program for 12 years, and Cole-Coffey said 300-400 Franklin Countians usually sign up.

“The program allows participants access to healthy foods,” Cole-Coffey said. “The sky is the limit when you go to one of the local farmers markets in the county: There is so much and so many varieties of healthy fruits and vegetables to choose from.”

Russellville Farmers Market manager Tammy West said the vouchers are always well-used at farmers markets, and people look forward to receiving them.

“I think especially as you get older, you start paying attention a lot more to what you are putting in your body so that you can be as healthy as possible and live longer,” West said.

West said she recommends shopping at the farmers market for the freshest produce available.

“The prices are lower, you know the growers, and everything is local,” West said. “What more could you ask for?”

The vouchers are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and Cole-Coffey said she would like to get everyone registered by March.

Those interested in applying can do so through the Franklin County Extension Office by calling 256-332-8880. Anyone who does not register before March can be put on a waiting list.

Visitors are not permitted in the Franklin County Extension Office, as a precaution against the coronavirus. Instead, callers should be prepared to provide date of birth, last four digits of their Social Security number, mailing address and the number of people in their household, over the phone.

Everyone must reapply for vouchers every year. If approved, vouchers will be mailed out in late May or early June and must be used by Nov. 15.

To be eligible, a person must be over 60-years-old and not exceed a gross household income of $1,756 for a household of one, $2,371 for a household of two, $2,987 for three, $3,604 for 4, $4,219 for 5, $4,835 for 6, $5,452 for 7 or $6,067 for 8.

Franklin County currently has two farmers markets, one in Russellville and one in Red Bay.

For more information on apply for SFMNP, contact the Franklin County Extension Office at 256-332-8880.