SFMNP provides access to fresh, free produce for seniors

For eligible senior citizens, the time is now to sign up for fresh, free fruits and vegetables through the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

The SFMNP is a federally-funded program to provide free fresh produce to seniors who sign up. Administered by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries’ Farmers Market Authority Section, the SFMNP provides eligible seniors with a $30 benefit card to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from certified farmers at markets and stands across the state.   

“This program helps to provide senior citizens access to locally-grown fruit and vegetables and increases consumption of healthy food items,” explained Franklin County Extension Coordinator Katernia Cole Coffey. The Extension administers the SFMNP locally, and Cole 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.”

This program has limited funding, and food benefits are available on a first come, first served basis until available funds are committed. Seniors are encouraged to complete an application as soon as possible.

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 may not have access to a computer,” Cole Coffey noted. “As a reminder, senior citizens have to sign up or renew their information each year.”

If approved, a benefit card will be mailed to the address provided on the application.  

Though applicants must reapply every year, the state notes it is important to keep the benefits card, since new benefits will be loaded on the card each year after an application is received. 

When purchasing Alabama-grown fresh fruits or vegetables from authorized farmers, present the benefit card just like a debit or credit card. The farmer 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. Benefits cannot be used at grocery stores or any location not listed on the redemption site. 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.

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