ALABAMA GETS $750,000 FOR SENIOR FARMERS MARKET PROGRAM
Alabama's Farmers Market Authority is among 40 state agencies and tribal organizations that will receive 2003 grant awards from USDA.
Don Wambles, administrator for the State Farmers Market Authority in Alabama, said Alabama will receive $757,760 of the $16.7 million available for the Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) in 2003.
SFMNP provides a direct tie between nutrition and production agriculture by giving low-income seniors the opportunity to buy fresh local produce directly from farmers.
The SFMNP not only improves the diets of participants, but also is designed to expand awareness and use of farmers' markets.
"The SFMNP is only two years old," Wambles said. "We operated the SFMNP in 18 counties in 2001, and last year, we served more than 46,000 seniors in 45 counties and increased farmers income by more than $960,000.00. Nearly 1,000 farmers from 65 counties were certified to accept SFMNP coupons last year. The senior participants have embraced this program with exuberance."
Wambles said the programs increased farmers' client base and incomes and provided low-income seniors with nutritious Alabama-grown fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs. The program is an example of direct marketing in which everyone benefits, he added.
The SFMNP, established as a pilot program in 2001, will continue to provide low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for eligible foods at farmers' markets, roadside stands and community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs.
Coupons for fresh produce will be accepted by farmers at nearly 2,150 markets, roadside stands or CSA programs. Congressional appropriations provide $15 million to operate the program this year. Further information about the SFMNP is available at http://www.fns.usda.gov/fns/.
For more information, farmers should contact through their local Cooperative Extension System or the Alabama Farmers Market Authority at 334-242-2618.