Community Magazine

Seniors and the Farmer’s Market

By Careforparents @Careforparents
Fresh Strawberries

Fresh Strawberries From the Farmer's Market

My mom lives in senior independent living apartments.  She and several of her friends regularly go
to the farmer’s market together on Wednesdays and Saturdays to purchase locally grown produce.  Each Wednesday and Saturday evening the ladies take a little of their produce and make a big salad, squash casserole, green beans and new potatoes or any number of things they pick up that morning and have a pot luck.  That way, they all get to taste a little of everything while keeping their primary purchases for themselves. It’s also a good way for them to get together and chat over a good (and healthy) meal.  Some in their group were having a difficult time keeping up with the cost of fresh produce until last year when Oklahoma got their first Senior Farmer’s Market Program (SFMP) grant.  It helps the senior and it also helps the local farmers sell more of their goods.

In a person’s later years it’s important to maintain a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. As you may have noticed on your latest trip to the grocery store fresh produce can be costly. Often the elderly are on very tight, fixed budgets and they may have to opt for cheaper
processed foods most of the time. The senior farmer’s market program helps seniors augment their meals with fresh produce during the local growing season.

The Senior Farmer’s Market Program (SFMP) is a grant offered by Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  In my state, it is a partnership between FNS, The Oklahoma Dept. of Human Services; Electronic Payment Systems Unit and Aging Services Division, Oklahoma Dept of Agriculture and select farmer’s markets who
choose to participate.  This program provides eligible seniors, 60-years-old and older the chance to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from local growers.

Not all states offer a Senior Farmer’s Market Program. However, each state may apply for a grant to do so. For more information on the USDA program you can go here.  Oklahoma, the state I live in, is the only state offering SFMP on Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT).  All other states use a
voucher system.  I do not know how the voucher system works but I can explain how our system works:

The state Aging Services (ASD), a division of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, distributes applications once a year to Area Agencies on Aging (Triple A’s) serving the counties in which there are participating farmer’s markets.  The Triple A’s market the program, collect the applications, and send them back to ASD. Staff at ASD organize the applications and send them to the Electronic Payment Systems (EPS) unit of the Finance Division of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.  EPS gives final approval sending EBT cards to approved seniors.  Instructions for activating the cards works much like a bank or credit card.  The seniors then take their activated cards to a participating farmer’s market where a volunteer with a Point of Purchase machine helps the senior draw however many tokens they wish.

This year qualifying Oklahoma seniors received $50 for the summer growing season. Spending $5-$10 each week is recommended.  The seniors then receive their tokens to use at a local grower’s booth purchasing anything from onions and tomatoes to plums and blackberries.  The senior may only use the SFMP card at the farmer’s market. The State Director of Oklahoma EPS can track expenditures and if the card is used at a grocery or convenience store, the card can be shut down.  This is not a food stamp (SNAP) card, does not have the same income guidelines, and may not be used as a food stamp card.

It’s too late to apply this year, but next Spring call your local Triple A or Aging Services Division and ask if your state offers the Seniors Farmer’s Market Program and then help the senior you love to apply. The USDA maintains a SFMNP State Agency Contact List and you can go there to find out who to contact in your state about the program.

You may want to offer to help them fill out the application and later take them to the local farmer’s market to spend their benefits.
It’s a great program that offers an enriched diet to seniors over the summer!

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