LANCASTER, Pa. (PRNewswire-USNewswire) — 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 today 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.
"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, health care referrals and nutrition education to low-income pregnant and post-partum women, and to infants and children, up to age five, 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 Dr. 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 to Nov. 30. Residents should contact their local Area Agency on Aging or WIC agency for further information, including locations, dates and times of voucher distributions. Vouchers are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
For information on where to find participating farmers markets, browse the farmers market database at www.agriculture.state.pa.us and search "farmers markets."