The Council on Aging of Southwest Ohio is making it possible for low-income older adults to get access to fresh fruits and vegetables through local farmers’ markets.
“We get so much great feedback. I was at one of the events yesterday and I had a number of individuals telling me just how much this helps them and what they get out of it benefit-wise,” said Natasha Wuebker, COA’s nutritionist business relations partner and the program’s leader.
Through the program, seniors get nutritious fruits and vegetables in their diets and get a day out in the community, which helps to fight social isolation, she said.
Eligible older adults may enroll in the free U.S. Department of Agriculture Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program by attending one of the area upcoming enrollment events. Last year, more than 2,342 older individuals participated in the program.
The Senior Farmers’ Market Program provides senior adults with fresh, locally grown fruits, vegetables, fresh cut herbs and honey through local, participating farmer’s markets and roadside stands. There are currently 6 participating markets in Butler County.
Older adults may enroll by attending one of the enrollment events by the Council on Aging. To qualify for the program, senior adults should live in one of the five counties in the service area, which includes Hamilton, Butler, Warren, Clermont and Clinton counties, be age 60 or older, and have an annual household income less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level.
Each eligible person in a household who would like to enroll must attend one of the local events. Eligible older adults will receive $50 in coupons at the time of enrollment. Coupons are redeemable at participating farmers markets through Oct. 31.
Although the program is available across COA’s service area, it was a partnership with community partners in Butler County that enabled COA to secure a grant that brought the program to the region.
Butler County resident Mike Eck was instrumental in working with the COA team to bring the program to southwestern Ohio in 2020. Several local farmers like Steve Willis, owner of Just Farmin’ in Butler County also got involved and helped to get produce out to area seniors through weekly deliveries.
“We started our program in 2020 with what’s called a traditional program. Then, also, we had a pilot program called Producing Healthy Seniors that was started up by Steve Willis of Just Farmin’ and Mike Eck. They went out and they did a lot of work trying to garner funding for this pilot program, which would enable delivery for people who couldn’t get out to the farmer’s markets. They were able to accept that application on December 23, 2019, and it involved three farmers at the time,” Wuebker said.
Produce deliveries are coordinated with various senior buildings in COA’s service area. However, the majority of participants go out to the farmer’s markets and go shopping. This year, COA has the capability of serving 3,600 eligible individuals.
“This program is absolutely instrumental in helping these older adults have access to healthy fruits and vegetables. And it’s sad, because sometimes you have people that have a hard time between affording their medications and affording healthy foods. Then, they are stuck in a predicament of having to choose. Do I go out and try to get healthy, nutritious foods, or do I spend my money on the medications I need?” Wuebker said.
LOCAL ENROLLMENT EVENT
Central Connections in Middletown, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday
Call (513) 721-1025 or (800) 252-0155
A list of enrollment dates and locations as well as a list of participating farmers’ markets can be accessed on Council on Aging’s website at www.help4seniors.org/programs-services/senior-farmers-market-program.
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