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Farmers Markets: Fresh, local, nutritious and safe

Golden Living

If you’re an income-qualified senior who hasn’t yet taken advantage of the 2020 Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP), keep reading. It’s an opportunity well worth exploring.

SFMNP provides fresh, nutritious, unprepared, locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs and honey through authorized farmers markets, roadside stands and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs to low-income seniors. SFMNP aims to increase the consumption of agricultural commodities by expanding, developing or aiding in the development and expansion of domestic farmers markets, roadside stands and CSA programs.

The benefit amount per SFMNP recipient in New York is $20 per year, distributed as a booklet of five $4 checks redeemable at authorized markets. Small though that benefit may seem, it has historically provided enough incentive to motivate seniors to go to a farmers market that they otherwise might not have visited. That’s a victory for healthy social and nutritional habits. Seniors, in particular, benefit from one often-overlooked benefit of a trip to the farmers market: social interaction. One Texas study revealed that people who shop at farmers markets have 15 to 20 social interactions per visit, while they would only have one or two per visit to a grocery store.

In Dutchess County, there are eight SFMNP-authorized markets operating this year. 2020 SFMNP coupons are valid until Nov. 30, or whenever an authorized market closes for the year.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office for the Aging (OFA) is only distributing SFMNP check booklets on Monday, Aug. 17, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at our offices at 114 Delafield St. in Poughkeepsie. We cannot distribute booklets to “walk-in” visitors.

SFMNP booklets are available from the Office for the Aging while supplies last, or until Sept. 30, whichever comes first. Call 845-486-2555 or email ofa@dutchessny.gov to learn more about your possible eligibility.

When you visit a farmers market, take the same precautions you would in any other shop. Make a list before you go, to make your trip as quick as possible. Wear a face covering. Avoid touching the produce the way you normally would to check for freshness; if you have a question about a specific item, the vendor should be able to help.

Regardless of what farmers market you visit in Dutchess County, you’ll be supporting our farmers and bringing home some of the freshest produce you can find — outside of picking it from your own garden.

For a list of SFMNP in Dutchess County, click here. 

Todd N. Tancredi is director of the Dutchess County Office for the Aging (OFA), which can be reached at 845-486-2555,  ofa@dutchessny.gov or online, at www.dutchessny.gov/aging.

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