In its second year operating in southwestern Ohio, the United States Department of Agriculture Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) nearly doubled in size, providing 2,122 low-income area older adults with fresh, local produce for no out-of-pocket cost.
Working with community members and the Ohio Department of Aging, Council on Aging (COA) brought the program to its service area for the first time ever in 2020. Despite the challenges and uncertainty posed by the early months of the COVID pandemic, more than 1,100 people joined the program in its first year.
Many factors contributed to the program’s growth in in 2021:
- many older adults were vaccinated and more comfortable leaving their homes
- more farmers’ markets were open due to less restrictive business-closure ordinances
- COA staff were able to promote the program at in-person events and through other outreach activities
“I heard from older adults that they were not only thankful to have healthy, delicious produce to eat without affecting their food budget, but they were also excited to get out of their homes and interact with others at the markets,” said Jennifer Lake, COA’s Provider Services Supervisor and Nutrition Business Relations Partner. Lake was instrumental in bringing the program to the area.
Through the traditional program, each participant receives $50 in coupons to redeem for locally grown produce, herbs and honey at participating farmers’ markets and roadside produce stands.
The aim of the program is not only to help low-income older adults, but to support local farmers. “Older adults had more places to redeem their coupons in 2021, because we almost doubled the number of locations that participated during 2021,” Lake said. “We’ve built some strong partnerships with local farmers through the program.”
Through some of these partnerships, hundreds of older adults did not even have to leave their homes to receive their fruits and vegetables. For the 2021 growing season, Lake made permanent a pilot program from 2020, where Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farmers delivered their bounty directly to low-income senior apartment buildings in Hamilton and Butler counties. The number of buildings receiving these deliveries doubled from three in 2020 to six in 2021.
Applications for the 2022 program will be available in April. For more information about the program, click here.