Kickoff Held for Senior Farmers' Market Coupon Program

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur recently joined officials of the Northwest Ohio Area Office on Aging to announce the seventh season of the popular Senior Farmers' Market Coupon Program.

"The arrival of spring-at last-marks an appropriate time to welcome the start of the Senior Farmers' Market Coupon Program," said Congresswoman Kaptur.

"Since this effort began in the summer of 2001, we have provided more than $5 million in fresh fruits and vegetables to thousands of our region's older adults while also providing income opportunities for hundreds of local growers," she said.

"We're always looking for new ways to expand our Farmers' Markets and create other new markets for our local and independent growers. The Senior Farmers' Market Coupon Program certainly does that-and it promotes good nutritional practices at the same time."

The coupon program is open to people over age 60 with incomes below $18,889 for individuals and $25,327 for couples. Eligible participants will receive the equivalent of $45 in coupons.  The coupons may be used from June through October at participating farmers markets and roadside produce stands in Lucas, Ottawa and Erie counties and eight other northern Ohio counties.

Farmers will have the produce clearly marked as to what produce is locally grown and a list of participating farmers will be available when coupons are distributed. More than 100 local farmers are participating in this year's program.

The Area Office on Aging explained that applications will be accepted at distribution sites and coupons will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Only one application is required to receive coupons for the entire program. The agency suggests that participants should select a convenient distribution site to apply for and receive coupons because for the duration of the program,   participants will need to return to the same distribution site to obtain coupons each month. They should contact their site for the exact times, days, and procedure they will be using to distribute coupons. For locations, call the Area Office on Aging at 419-382-0624.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture made a federal award of $1,072,934 to the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Area Office on Aging in order to provide locally grown fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs to thousands of eligible adult citizens in northern Ohio. Congresswoman Kaptur is a member of the Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee that funds USDA and the Senior Nutrition grant.

"We are so pleased to be able to offer the Farmers' Market Coupon Program again to our older adults," said Billie Johnson, executive director of the Area Office on Aging. "This initiative is a wonderful way to help continue in our mission to serve older adults and improve their quality of life.  We have the opportunity to expand nutrition service options, enabling people to purchase the very best in quality produce fresh from our own region. We have been able to develop a strong partnership with area farmers, the State Departments of Health and Aging, and USDA, to successfully implement a creative program our seniors have truly appreciated and fully utilized."

Dr. Rebecca Liebes, director of nutrition at the Area Office on Aging noted, "We have heard from thousands of older adults who have benefited from the program during the last five years, many of whom were able to enhance special diets and improve their overall health as a result of being able to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Through this program, our goal is to improve the diets of older adults by offering coupons to be used to purchase fresh produce from local farmers to supplement their meals.  In turn, our elders are helping local farmers by giving them a greater outlet to sell their produce."