Program offers fresh produce to local seniors

Published 11:04 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is again making fresh fruits and vegetables available to Washington Parish seniors, though a decreased number will be receiving benefits this year.

Through the program, a book containing $24 worth of coupons to be redeemed at a farmers market is sent to the seniors who are approved. Participants also receive a nutrition form that discusses the importance of eating health fruits and vegetables along with a list of farmer’s market vendors approved to take the coupons.

This year, one vendor at the Franklinton Farmers Market has been approved to accept the coupons, said Annette Russo, Council on Aging outreach worker advocate. The rest of the vendors are out of parish.

Applications will be mailed to the seniors who received coupons last year, Russo said. They will need to bring the application in to one of the four Council on Aging meal sites, in Franklinton, Bogalusa, Pine or Angie. Any senior who did not receive coupons last year but would like to apply can complete that process at one of the meal sites.

The program is open to seniors at least 60 years of age whose income does not exceed 185 percent of the poverty level.

Applications are accepted each weekday until 2 p.m. at the Franklinton and Bogalusa meal sites and from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m. at the Pine and Angie sites.

The benefits are first come, first served, she said. Last year, 187 parish seniors were issued coupons. That number, however, has been reduced due to budget sequestration. Russo said 149 seniors will be receiving farmers market coupons this year.

“After the 149 people have been approved, we will continue to take applications in case we receive additional grant money. Or if another parish does not use all their coupon money, it will be distributed through the other parishes,” she said.

The coupons will be sent out at the end of May, Russo said. They can be redeemed all at one time or spread out over a period of time. She said they must be used by November.

Russo said local seniors love the program. She said she gets calls year round from people who want to participate but do not understand exactly how it is set up.

Made possible through the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Russo said the farmers market program is all about “making sure seniors get healthy fruits and vegetables during the summer months when they’re available.”