By Grace DeRose-Wilson, Screening Integration Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan
A Federal program called the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) can help low-income seniors afford more fresh produce. I have heard many older adults say they would like to incorporate more fresh produce into their diets. However, fresh fruits and vegetables can be expensive, and they do not keep as long as other food items. I think many older adults hesitate to spend money on fresh produce because they worry it will go bad before they are able to use it and will be a waste of money. The SFMNP can help alleviate the worry of wasting money on fresh produce.
Each state has an agency that implements SFMNP. In Michigan, this program is called Senior Project FRESH and it is administered through the Aging and Adult Services Agency. The Aging and Adult Services Agency (AASA) highlights a few facts about Senior Project FRESH and some eligibility guidelines for participation:
- Senior Project FRESH runs from May 1 to October 31 each year.
- Senior Project FRESH provides participants with free nutrition counseling and $20 in coupons to exchange for fresh produce and other healthy, unprocessed, locally produced foods such as honey.
- To participate, individuals must be Michigan residents age 60 or older.
- Individual seniors must have an annual household income below $22,459, or $30,451 for a couple.
In addition to making fresh produce more affordable for low-income seniors, SFMNP has other objectives and purposes. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reviews these objectives and purposes. One objective is to promote domestic farmers markets and community supported agriculture programs by increasing the amount of fresh produce people buy and consume. Another objective is to help develop new farmers markets and new community supported agriculture programs.
Sometimes I hear from older adults who are concerned about accepting help from programs like Senior Project FRESH or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Often, these individuals are worried about accepting aid when others could use it more, or they feel like they are relying on charity and not contributing to their communities. I believe, programs like Senior Project FRESH and SNAP, and individuals that utilize these programs, help support and promote local, sustainable agriculture. This belief is supported by the strategic goals set by the USDA, which include the goal of promoting agriculture and strengthening the stewardship of private lands. Another goal is to make sure we have a safe, nutritious, and secure supply of food. The USDA uses programs like SFMNP and SNAP to help meet these goals.
Michigan’s Coordinated Access to Food for the Elderly, (MiCAFE), a program of Elder Law of Michigan, Inc., was created in 2001 to address barriers and increase access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for eligible older adults through outreach, education, and application assistance in the community. The MiCAFE Network helps reduce barriers and stigma facing older adults when applying for food assistance and other benefits. The MiCAFE Network’s goal is to increase the quality of life of the older adults we serve.
In 2018, MiCAFE distributed over 100 booklets (over $2000) of coupons to eligible older adults. In 2019, MiCAFE will distribute Senior Project FRESH coupons by collaborating with partner organizations around the state to enroll eligible older adults. Filling out an application is simple, there is no documentation required, and applicants immediately receive a booklet of coupons. These coupons can be used at participating farmers markets and roadside stands, which often display a “Senior Project FRESH/Market FRESH Welcome Here” sign. To locate participating farmers markets in your area, check out the Michigan Farmers Market Association
To inquire about the MiCAFE Network, Senior Project FRESH or enrollment events in your area, please call MiCAFE at 877-664-2233.
Grace DeRose-Wilson is a Screening Integration Coordinator for MiCAFE at Elder Law of Michigan and has been a member of the Elder Law of Michigan team since November 2018. As a Screening Integration Coordinator, Grace helps Michigan seniors navigate the benefits application process, and helps raise awareness of benefits through community outreach events.