By Charity Battles, Nutrition Education Program
“Fresh produce is just too expensive.”
This is a sentence I have heard far too often, and it is a valid concern, especially for those with a limited income.
Finally, there is good news in response to this dilemma.
The Farmers’ Market Authority has found a solution to alleviate some of this expense by introducing vouchers.
The Nutrition Education Program through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System concentrates on educating those in a lower income bracket about nutrition. The reason is that this demographic generally has the poorest nutrition; therefore, it is important to educate those utilizing the SNAP program on the importance of a healthy diet.
The primary goal is to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption, the two food groups that seem to be most often overlooked. This is why NEP is able to work with the local farmers’ markets.
Many people do not know about the vouchers available for fresh produce to those with lower incomes.
NEP attempts to spread the word about this program, while offering other nutritional information.
There are two different kinds of vouchers. One is for those utilizing the WIC program. The other is for seniors of a limited income, and this, specifically, is an audience NEP works alongside.
Last year, Chilton County began a farmers market located in Jemison on Fridays.
Some of these farmers became certified to accept these vouchers.
This year, the farmers market will not continue due to crop damage. However, the good news is that there are other farmers in the area that can still accept the vouchers.
There is not a list compiled of all the roadside stands or “U-pick” farms that accept these, so interested individuals would need to contact businesses directly to verify if they are set up to accept vouchers.
For prospective recipients, the application period begins in January and closes when availability runs out or once the vouchers are sent in May or June.
They will then close the web link until the next year. If you missed the window to apply, you can still be first in line next year.
Any Chilton County residents over the age of 60 can contact the Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging to apply for these as well. M4A can be contacted at 1-866-570-2998/205-670-5770.
If you know of anyone who could benefit from this program, please pass on this information.
The following information comes from the Farmers Market Authority website:
Seniors: become an SFMNP recipient
“An SFMNP coupon is worth $6. You cannot receive change from a coupon. If your purchase is less than the amount of one or more coupons, the farmer will add more fruits and vegetables of your choice to make up the difference.
You are welcome to use cash at the market to buy additional fresh produce.
You cannot use your coupons to buy non-produce items, ornamental pumpkins or gourds.
FMNP coupons cannot be used at a grocery store or any location that is not listed on our redemption site.”
“No person is ‘entitled’ to SFMNP checks, as the budget does not allow enough checks to satisfy everyone who wishes to receive them and is eligible. Issuance is on a first-come, first-serve basis until a country’s allotted books are issued.
Senior FMNP – Both criteria must be met in order to receive SFMNP coupons.
1. Age – person must be 60 years of age or older on the day of issuance, no one under age 60 is eligible.
2. Income level – household gross income must not exceed:
Household of – 1 ($1,534 monthly)
Household of – 2 ($2,064 monthly)
Household of – 3 ($2,594 monthly)
Household of – 4 ($3,124 monthly)
Household of – 5 ($3,654 monthly)
Household of – 6 ($4,183 monthly)
Farmers: Sign up to take SFMNP vouchers
All farmers must have a growers permit. Permits are free and can be obtained from any Extension office in the state. The permits are for one year only and run during the calendar year from January to December. The permits are good in any county in the state. They must be notarized.
Vendors (or farmers) can take the SFMNP vouchers once they pass a test online through the Alabama Farmers Market Authority. They can go to http://www.fma.alabama.gov/Training.aspx to watch a video and then take the test. From there they will be issued a number so they can take the vouchers just like they would take money.
More information is available online at http://www.fma.alabama.gov/Nutrition.aspx.
For all other questions, contact: Don Wambles, director of Farmers Market Authority at email@example.com, phone (334) 240-7247 or fax (334) 240-3723.