Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)

The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) gives states grants to fund local farmers markets, food stands and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs.

Most money provided to the Farmers Market Nutrition Program directly funds seniors’ benefits by awarding qualified seniors coupons that can be redeemed at participating food markets. Seniors are encouraged to review the eligibility for the program to ensure they are receiving all the food assistance they can.

The following sections detail farmers market nutrition program locations that may be accessible to some seniors throughout the U.S. and the qualification criteria that determines their eligibility for the program. Because the purpose of SFMNP is to reach impoverished seniors with little access to fresh and healthy foods, seniors should review the information provided below to assess their need for the program. Seniors can review important information on SFMP and other helpful financial resources, below.

What is SFMNP?

Each state attempts to provide nutritional relief to seniors via the Farmers Market Nutrition Program through state agencies. Regulated by the Secretary of Agriculture, the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program seeks to do the following for seniors and food vendors in the country :

  • Offer resources such as fresh, locally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs to low-income seniors.
  • Increase the consumption of fresh produce by expanding domestic markets, food stands and CSA programs.
  • Help create new markets, food stands and CSA programs.

Hundreds of thousands of seniors receive SFMNP benefits each year since its establishment in 2001– over 800,000 seniors in 2017 alone–and thousands of farmers and food vendors have been authorized to receive coupons or checks from the program. In fact, almost 20,000 farmers and 4,000 farmers markets were authorized in 2017.

As cash grants are distributed to state agencies, states distribute food coupons to qualified seniors. Seniors are, then, able to visit participating farmers markets, roadside stands or CSAs and select the appropriate produce for which their coupons can be used. Afterwards, the food vendors submit the used coupons to the bank or senior nutrition program’s state agency for official reimbursement.

As of 2017, the funding amount available to state agencies is just over $19 million, but many states are unable to operate statewide due to limited funding and available resources. In addition to the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, seniors are advised to apply for other nutrition programs such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) and the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) to ensure they receive all necessary nutrients they and their families need.

Together, with other sources of income, the programs can help seniors better prevent the devastating effects of poor nutrition that affect so many elderly individuals nationwide.

SFMNP Eligibility

Eligibility for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program depends, primarily, on seniors’ age and household income. The Farmers Market Nutrition Program also restricts seniors based on their residency because no all U.S. states offer benefits to their residents due to limited locations.

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Qualifying seniors may have to reside in certain counties or cities to collect benefits. Seniors who are 60 years old or older and have total household incomes (before taxes) of 185 percent of the U.S. poverty guidelines or less are typically considered eligible for benefits. Current SFMNP income eligibility guidelines are as follows:

Household Size Maximum Annual Income Limit
1 $22,459
2 $30,451
3 $38,443
4 $46,435
5 $54,427
6 $62,419
7 $70,411
8 $78,403

For each additional family member, the maximum annual income increases by $7,992.

Note: Some state agencies may accept proof of participation in other nutritional programs as automatic proof of eligibility.

How to Apply for SFMNP

To apply for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, seniors are encouraged to contact their local state agency for state-specific application instructions. However, the general application process for the Farmers Market Nutrition Program is outlined in the following steps:

  1. Collect all the required documents.
  2. Bring all documents to your local state agency office.
  3. Complete and submit the application for benefits (some applications may be accessible online).
  4. Receive coupons at distribution events.

Seniors should be prepared to present forms of identification, evidence of their age and proof of their income when applying for benefits and contact their local state agency if they are curious about the appropriate forms of documentation to bring. Other required documents may be requested on an as-needed basis.

After applicants apply for the senior nutrition program, they will receive detailed directions regarding the collection of their coupons or vouchers and how many they can legally receive. In some states and counties, coupons are limited, so seniors must request them while supplies last.

Benefits of SFMNP

The federal benefit level for beneficiaries in the senior market nutrition program must be between $20 and $50 per year for both individuals and households. Therefore, SFMNP benefits are not meant to fully supply all groceries for families and is only a supplemental source of food assistance.

However, nutrition education designed to teach seniors how to eat healthier as they age such as cooperative extension programs, local area agencies on aging, local chefs, farmers or farmers’ markets associations and other non- or for-profit organizations are also funded by the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program to give seniors comprehensive nutritional resources. Educational resources are often in partnership with other local agencies such as Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and detail everything from healthy and safe food preparation and storage to healthy eating practices.

Beneficiaries can find Farmers Market Nutrition Program locations by visiting their local state agency that manages the program for their area or by going online. Every location is required to display SFMNP posters or signs indicating that they accept coupons or vouchers as payment. A list of the types of foods seniors may obtain at participating locations is as follows:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Herbs
  • Fresh meat and dairy
  • Ready-to-eat meals
  • Beverages
  • Honey and syrups

Related Article: Fitness and Exercise Tips for Seniors

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