PROVIDENCE -- The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Division of Agriculture has upgraded its Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) bulk purchase pilot program to provide an estimated 12,800 boxes of fresh Rhode Island food to eligible seniors. The purpose of this program is to keep food security funds in Rhode Island. DEM is working closely with the Rhode Island Office of Healthy Aging (OHA) to determine what communities are in most need of this assistance and to ensure the most helpful outcome. This effort will be done in partnership with Farm Fresh Rhode Island (FFRI), which will source, pack, and deliver the food boxes to 75 different senior sites across the state.
"This successful partnership will help ensure that more food-insecure Rhode Island seniors have locally grown and fresh produce in their kitchens and refrigerators," said Governor Dan McKee. "Delivering healthy food to our neighbors in need while continuing to support our local growers and farmers is a win all around."
"We are excited to build off our pilot senior bulk purchase program, ramp up, and provide thousands of more boxes of fresh, local fruits and vegetables to eligible seniors," said DEM Acting Director Terry Gray. "I am grateful for the responsiveness of DEM's Division of Agriculture and the partnership of Farm Fresh RI and the Office of Healthy Aging through which older Rhode Islanders may receive nutritious food at senior centers, senior meal sites, and low-income senior housing locations, and home-bound seniors can receive deliveries of food boxes."
"Farm Fresh Rhode Island is proud to partner with DEM and OHA to ensure more seniors have access to fresh, local food. After a successful pilot in 2021, we are looking forward to working with more small growers across the state to pack these boxes full of a variety of local produce," said Farm Fresh RI Market Mobile Sales Director Nikki Ayres. "Our mission is rooted in making connections — empowering local farmers with market-based opportunities to sell their produce to local eaters, which increases farm viability and access to nutritious food for the community. We are thoughtfully sourcing items from a variety of local growers and delivering boxes packed with fresh produce directly to senior centers – feeding people in need right where they are while keeping the journey food takes through the supply chain short."
"The RI Office of Healthy Aging is thrilled to continue this partnership with DEM and Farm Fresh RI to address hunger and food insecurity through the United States Division of Agriculture (USDA) Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)," said OHA Interim Director Michelle Szylin. "Too many older adults in our communities have challenges accessing healthy, nutritious foods. This annual effort gives us the opportunity to expand the reach of this program, making a difference across communities in Rhode Island."
In the first round of produce box deliveries of 2022, select senior locations including senior centers across the state will be signing up participants from March 1 to April 15 to be included in the opportunity to receive a free box of locally grown produce. When signing up, each participant will be asked to indicate whether they meet the listed eligibility criteria on a provided form. Upon submission of this form, details regarding delivery of the produce boxes to the senior location will be discussed with each participant so they can plan to pick up their assigned produce box. If an eligible participant is not able to sign up or receive their produce box on the day of delivery, another individual can be selected as a "proxy" to do so on the eligible participants behalf. To view a list of locations where individuals can sign up during the first round of deliveries, please view the SFMNP webpage.
SFMNP provides low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for eligible foods (fruits, vegetables, honey, and fresh-cut herbs) at farmers' markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs. Fewer than one-third of senior citizens in the United States eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, which are vital to preventing and treating health problems. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service has been running SFMNP since 2001 with the annual Farm Bill passed by Congress providing federal funding for the program. Each year the SFMNP program relies on the redemption of coupon vouchers.
Eligible seniors will receive a free food box filled with local seasonal produce with a value of $20. Produce will be provided by farmers throughout Rhode Island.
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