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Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program Opens July 1

A healthy diet is a key part of aging well. A program administered by The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets aims to help eligible older New Yorkers to improve and expand their diets by obtaining nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables directly from the source.

The New York State Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provides low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for eligible foods (fruits, vegetables, and fresh-cut herbs) at farmers' markets throughout the state. The purpose of the program is to promote improved nutrition through increased consumption of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. It is also intended to expand sales at farmers' markets. The Department collaborates with the New York State Department of Health, the New York State Office for the Aging, and Cornell Cooperative Extension in administering the program. Older adults interested in learning more about their County SFMNP should contact their local Office for the Aging. Distribution of the coupons will begin as soon as the local Office for the Aging receives their supply of the booklets from the Department of Agriculture and Markets. Coupons can be redeemed from July 1 through November 30, 2013.

Eligibility for the program is determined by two factors, age and income. Eligible recipients must be age 60 or older. Someone who is age-eligible must then meet the income eligibility requirement. Each older adult must affirm that they are low income based on one of the following criteria.

A: Gross monthly income at or below 185% of Federal Poverty Guidelines:

Or:

B: Currently receiving or eligible to receive one of the following benefits: Supplemental Security Income (SSI), public assistance, or Section 8 housing subsidy.

C: Also, they have not received Farmers Market checks from any other location. Please note, race and/or ethnicity will not determine eligibility.

Each SFMNP check booklet is worth $20 and contains five (5) $4.00 checks. Recipients MUST be issued the entire $20 benefit. Booklets may not be subdivided among recipients to permit more older adults to participate in the program. The color of the coupons is green this year. Coupons from previous years may not be used in the current year's program. Only ONE check booklet may be issued per eligible household regardless of how many low-income older adults comprise the household. Eligible older adults must sign for their coupon book in person and sign the appropriate forms to participate.

SFMNP checks may only be used at authorized multiple vendor farmers markets participating in the program and not at grocery stores or roadside stands. http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/AP/CommunityFarmersMarkets.asp(External Link)

Checks may only be used to buy locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables from participating farmers -- although other items are also commonly available at the markets. (Farmers will not accept the checks for ineligible items like cider, jams, honey, or baked goods, and recipients should not insist that the checks be accepted for them.)

For more information on participation in the SFMNP and how to receive/redeem checks, please contact FarmersMarkets@agriculture.ny.gov(External Link) or call the Senior Citizens' Helpline at 1-800-342-9871.

For more information on the Senior Farmer's Market Nutrition Program, visit the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets' FMNP web page.(External Link)