BY BRUCE BRANUM
The Greenville Standard
The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provides low-income seniors that are 60 years of age or older with $30 worth of vouchers that can be used to purchase eligible foods (fruits, vegetables, honey, and fresh-cut herbs) from farmers that grow and sell them directly at local farmers markets and roadside stands.
The SFMNP program in Alabama is administered by the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries, Farmers Market Authority Section to provide vouchers to low-income seniors.
To qualify for the SNFMP vouchers, seniors must meet the following two criteria: a person must be 60 years of age or older the day of application and have a gross household income (income before taxes) which must not exceed the following limits:
$1,658 monthly, for a household of one
$2,233 monthly, for a household of two
$2,808 monthly for a household of three
$3,383 monthly, for a household of four
$3,957 monthly for a household of five
$4,532 monthly for a household of six
(Household: a group of related or non-related individuals living together as one economic unit. These amounts are at 165% of 2017-2018 Federal Poverty Guidelines.)
The Farmers Market Authority (FMA) was established to assist in the marketing of agricultural products by providing information, leadership and modern facilities necessary to move agricultural products from the farm to the consumer.
This assures the consumer a better quality product at a reasonable price and a fair return to the producer by providing a convenient, dependable place through which producers and buyers may carry on the process of marketing.
The purpose is to promote direct marketing avenues for Alabama agricultural products; to advocate for the interest and respond to the needs of farmers markets and direct market farmers; and to educate farmers and consumers about the benefits of direct marketing and the importance of supporting local agriculture and their communities.
The goals of the Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (FMNPs) are: to provide fresh, nutritious, unprepared, locally grown fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs from farmers markets and roadside stands to low-income seniors and nutritionally at risk women and children; to increase domestic consumption of agricultural commodities by expanding or aiding in the expansion of farmers markets, roadside stands; and to develop or aid in the development of new and additional farmers markets, roadside stands.
No person is “entitled” to SFMNP vouchers; as the budget does not allow enough money to satisfy everyone who wishes to receive them and is eligible. Issuance is on a first come-first serve basis until all available funds are expended.
To use your SFMNP vouchers, remember all markets are self -governing. It is important that you note the markets days and hours of operation and inquire locally for exact opening and closing dates. (These dates may or may not coincide with the valid dates to redeem SFMNP vouchers, April 15 – Nov. 15). Vouchers expire every year and they must be used in the year issued.
Walk through the market to compare the variety, quality and price of the produce items on display at each farmer’s stand before deciding what you will buy.
Use your vouchers to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs from farmers who display the “Farmers Market Nutrition Program” sign. If you have any questions about selecting and preparing fresh produce, please ask the farmers.
Each voucher is worth $6. You cannot receive change from a voucher. If your purchase is less than the amount of one or more vouchers, 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 vouchers to buy non-produce items such as ornamental pumpkins or gourds and they cannot be used at a grocery store or any location that is not registered.
The Butler County Farmers Market is the only locally registered place to accept the SFMNP vouchers.
If you are interested in applying for vouchers, you can complete and submit an application on the FMA website at http://fma.alabama.gov/seniornutrition/.
If approved, you will receive your vouchers by mail to be used at approved markets and roadside stands. The vouchers must be expended by Nov.15 of the calendar year you receive them.
If you do not have internet, you can use the Greenville-Butler County Public Library computers.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, located at 101 South Conecuh Street in Greenville, can also assist with your application process. Their office hours are from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. They are closed from 12-1 p.m. Their phone number is 334-382-5111.
In addition, the Greenville Nutrition Center, located at 903 Cedar Street in Greenville, can help you sign up for vouchers. Their phone number is 334-382-6005. Their office hours are from 8-11 a.m. Monday to Friday.
You will need your income, a Social Security Card and one form of picture identification to complete the application process.