Low-income older adults and Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program participants can now use vouchers to purchase fresh, local produce at farmers markets and farm stands across Pennsylvania.
Agriculture Secretary George Greig, Aging Secretary Brian Duke and Health Secretary Dr. Eli Avila joined U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary of Food Nutrition and Consumer Services Dr. Janey Thornton to kick off the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) at Lancaster Central Market on Monday.
“Pennsylvania is proud of its active role in the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which provides needed access to fresh, wholesome local foods,” said Greig. “The program benefits all involved, from the individuals who purchase food to the farmers who raised it to the communities they live in. I encourage anyone eligible for the program to take advantage of it and enjoy a taste of Pennsylvania this summer.”
Greig said Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that provide state funding in addition to federal grants for the program. As a result, all of Pennsylvania is covered by the program. This year, the state is contributing $2 million to the $5.7 million program.
“Eating nutritious food is a vital part of staying healthy,” said Duke. “The Farmers Market Nutrition Program helps older adults purchase fresh produce from farmers markets that is part of a well-rounded diet.”
The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program provides low-income older adults with four vouchers totaling $20 that can be exchanged for fruits and vegetables grown in Pennsylvania. The funds cannot be used on processed foods like jams, honey, nuts, cider or baked goods, or on citrus or tropical fruits.
To qualify for the program, individuals must be 60 or older by Dec. 31, 2011, with a total household income before taxes of less than $20,665 for a single person and $27,991 for two people.
A second program, the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program, provides vouchers to WIC recipients to purchase fresh, unprepared, locally grown fruits and vegetables from Pennsylvania farmers markets or roadside farm stands. The WIC program provides supplemental foods, healthcare referrals and nutrition education to low-income pregnant and post-partum women, and to infants and children, up to age 5, who are found to be nutritionally at-risk. Eligibility for this program is determined through local WIC agencies.
“Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber and other substances that are important for good health,” said Avila. “With WIC recipients eligible for this program, we have even more ways to improve the nutrition and health of Pennsylvania’s new mothers and our children.”
Statewide, 194 farmers markets and 1,195 roadside farm stands participate in the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which operates from June 1-Nov. 30.
In the featured photo at top: Health Secretary Dr. Eli Avila, left, Agriculture Secretary George Greig, Lancaster Agency on Aging Director Jackie Burch, Aging Secretary Brian Duke and USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Dr. Janey Thornton kicked off the Farmers Market Nutrition Program at Lancaster Central Market in Pennsylvania on June 15.