By Holly Glen Gearhart
Senior Services of Snohomish County has initiated a farmers’ market fresh food voucher program to help low income seniors buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
As this is a pilot program, the available vouchers are very limited. The vouchers are for $40 worth of fresh food and veggies to use at farmers’ markets that accept the vouchers.
The vouchers will be distributed by a random selection process, and in order to get your name in the pot you will need to complete and mail the application no later than May 31. Copies can be downloaded from the Senior Services of Snohomish website (www.sssc.org then click on Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program), or picked up from your nearest senior center.
However, winning a voucher, or for that matter trying to use other food assistance programs, won’t guarantee you easy access to fresh, local veggies.
Of three farmers’ markets near the Monroe area contacted last week, all either are not accepting the voucher at this time or were unaware of the voucher’s existence.
For that matter, few independently-owned farmers markets accept the EBT or SNAP program payment (formerly known as food stamps) simply because no one has brought to their attention the need for them to get set up with the SNAP point-of-sale terminals or other state-supported food program procedures.
A little activism may be called for from the buying public. A simple note or email to the establishment where you would like to purchase your produce – other than a grocery store– will let the owners know there is a buying public that he or she needs to welcome into their businesses.
Three years ago I mentioned to one of my favorite farmers’ market managers that he should consider getting with the state and putting in the terminal so that people who are using the EBT or SNAP programs could come and buy his delicious wares.
Getting him online with the programs took a little time and some reminding, but he got everything in place, and later told me that his sales jumped 25 percent within the first 60 days.
No one should go hungry if there is help around, and a few phone calls to your local farmers’ market—or a personal visit—may be all it takes to get juicy watermelons or fabulous Washington cherries on your plate.
Here are the requirements for the farmers’ market voucher program:
Your income must be less than $1,771 per month for one person or $2,391 per month for two people (For larger households, add $620 for each additional person.)
Remember that the completed application must be postmarked by May 31 and mailed to: Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, 11627 Airport Rd., Ste. B, Everett, WA 98204
If you are accepted you will receive a letter that you were selected sometime in early July and your check will be mailed by July 5. Visit the webpage for the application (available in several languages) or call Senior Nutrition at (425) 347-1229 or Senior Information and Assistance at (425) 513-1900.