Two federal programs are available to help seniors and low-income Iowans with the purchase of fresh produce grown in the state.
The state Department of Agriculture handles the details and Paul Ovrum is the program administrator. “We have the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program that offers seniors who are 60 years or older and meet some income eligibility guidelines…they’re offered 10 three-dollar vouchers that they can use at the farmers market,” Ovrum says.
The other program provides vouchers to those in the WIC supplemental food program. “They’re eligible for 9 three-dollar vouchers that they can use throughout the growing season at the farmers markets throughout the growing season with eligible vendors,” Ovrum explains. “The vendors have to go through a training program and be certified before they can accept the vouchers.”
Ovrum says the vendors have to offer “locally grown” produce. “For this program when we say local, we mean it has to be grown in Iowa or any of the counties that touch Iowa’s borders, and then that produce is eligible for these three-dollar vouchers,” Ovrum says. He says the voucher programs have a double impact.
“On the one hand it helps folks who might need a little help getting the nutrition found in fresh produce into their kitchens for preparation. And then on the other side it helps the vendors, it’s another stream of income for them, and overall it increases the awareness and use of farmers markets throughout Iowa. So it’s kind of neat that way,” Ovrum says. He says most people in the state who are eligible for the two programs should not have trouble finding a place to get the produce as Iowa is one of the highest per-capita states when it comes to farmers markets.
Ovrum says participants in the WIC program should get information on the vouchers during their routine visits. Seniors can find out about the program at some of the agencies that provide other services.
He says you can contact a congregate meal site, a senior center or one of the six area agencies on aging in the state. The farmers market voucher programs are available through October 31st.