Government Program Makes Healthy Food a Viable Option

The Farmers Market Nutrition Program for seniors, mothers and children brings healthy produce — fresh from the farm — to those who need it most.

| June 20, 2008

Fruits and Veggies 6/08

Although many people find it hard to afford fresh fruits and vegetables for their family, the U.S. government can help by supplying Food Stamps and coupons that are redeemable at farmers markets to those in need.


It’s the beginning of the growing season and thousands of farmers markets and farm stands across the country will soon be in full swing, bustling with customers buying fresh fruits and vegetables from nearby farms.

But with food prices on the rise, it’s hard to get excited about buying any food, let alone locally grown. However, you or someone you know may be surprised to learn that the U.S. government helps make local, fresh and nutritious foods more affordable for those who can least afford them.

For starters, many of the farmers markets accept federal nutrition assistance money. The Food Stamp program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is the most well-known of these nutrition assistance programs. But did you know there’s another government program of this kind, exclusively for foods procured from farmers markets? It’s called the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP).

With people all across America feeling the pinch of high food and fuel prices, and many families seeking assistance for the first time, this program can supplement the food budgets of low-income mothers, children and seniors. Coupons for fresh, locally grown produce will be made available this growing season as part of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) and the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP).

An estimated $40 million worth of coupons will be distributed to approximately 2.5 million women and 825,000 seniors this season to use at select farm-to-consumer outlets. The total value for each recipient can be as low as $10, or up to $50, depending on what state you live in.

While $10, or even $50, for the entire growing season may seem low, the coupons were originally designed by forward-thinking farm and food security communities in the Northeast in the late 1980s. They wanted to introduce new, low-income shoppers to local produce at farmers markets and help save small, family-owned farms during an era when thousands of farms disappeared from the American landscape.

6/25/2008 10:53:59 AM

Hi Debra, While it's true that there does not appear to be a Texas office for the senior program, Texas is operating the Farmers Market Nutrition Program through WIC. Here's your state agency contact: TEXAS Mike Montgomery, Director Texas Department of State Health Services Nutrition Services Section 110O West 49th Street Austin, TX 78756-3199 phone: (512) 458-7444 fax: (512) 458-7446 email: -Tabitha Alterman, Mother Earth News

jo carrasco
6/23/2008 3:14:19 PM

In Texas, food stamps can be used to purchase vegetable SEEDS from any store that accepts food stamps. Other states may have similar allowances. I would not have known this except that I happened to ask at the local food stamp office."Give a man a bean, he'll eat for a day. Teach him to plant beans, he'll never go hungry." A good idea, I think, would be to encourage families to pool a few of their food stamp "dollars" to create community food gardens. Local food banks could grow their own, too, in order to feed the poor.

6/23/2008 2:20:41 PM

For the first time this weekend, I went to my local farmer's market. It was scheduled to last from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. It was a very good thing I arrived early. By 8:45 a.m., nearly everyone was sold out! Unfortunately and in Texas, no such program, as mentioned in this article, exists.

zoe b
6/21/2008 6:18:14 PM

After a couple years of inclusion in the program, the disabled on assistance (SSI,Food Stamps,etc) are no longer permitted to receive this important access to fresh, local food.

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