September 1, 2004 | By: Laura Skillman

Seniors picking up their monthly commodities through the supplemental food program in downtown Louisville can also redeem their farmers’ market vouchers just outside the distribution center.

“They receive a voucher and can either use it all now, or use part of it and wait and use the other the next time they come,” said Phyllis Caudill, an Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program assistant in Jefferson County. “It’s a great thing to try to encourage people to eat more fresh vegetables. For many senior citizens, this is the only opportunity they have to get a ride to a farmers’ market and they can use their voucher now.”

Caudill, an EFNEP assistant with the University if Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, works with low-income families to try to encourage good nutrition.  At the downtown distribution center she works along with staff from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, which operates the center and the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, to do cooking demonstrations based on what the seniors receive in their commodity boxes and what’s available at the market.

“It’s a real small window of opportunity, and we try to capture them for a few minutes and give them handouts such as food pyramid information,” she said.

In addition, they have recipe cards prepared by UKthat give the shoppers ideas for preparing some of the produce available at the market.

Elizabeth Buckner, EFNEP coordinator for Jefferson County , said she tries to coordinate with many different agencies in Louisville , and the commodities supplemental food site is one example of how she works with the EFNEP assistants in Jefferson County to try to reach clientele.

”Urban settings always provide you with a lot of opportunities but you have to seek and find the people where you can help them the most to meet their needs,” she said.

The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is a national program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture which awards grants to state agencies to operate the program. It was established as a pilot program in 2001 and provides low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for fresh produce at approved farmers' markets.

The SFMNP is intended to provide fresh, nutritious, locally grown fruits, vegetables and fresh edible herbs to low-income seniors and to increase the consumption of agricultural commodities by expanding or aiding in the development of farmers' markets and other outlets, according to the USDA.

The Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program and the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program has given farmers the opportunity to reach Senior and WIC clients that may not have had the access or means to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, according to Bill Clary, KDA public relations director.

The voucher program is new but growing, Buckner said.

“When we go to any of our senior sites we try to encourage them to sign up for the program,” she said. “I think as people realize it is a savings to them as far as their pocketbook – as well as can really improve their diets and help get them the fresh fruits and vegetables – I think it can only just grow and be a better opportunity.

The downtown Louisville site is the only one where participants can pick up their commodities as well as use their SFMNP voucher. Other farmers’ markets around the state also accept the vouchers.

“This is an excellent opportunity,” Buckner said.

This is the second year Shelby County farmer Doug Likes has set up at the farmers’ market on Rowan Street.  The senior vouchers work well but it is still a learning process and people need to be educated on where they can use them, he said.

“We should get better redemption because we are set up right where they get their commodities,” he said. “In other areas, they have to go to a farmers’ market and they may not know where they are.”

In addition to the SFMNP, there is also the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) which is associated with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, popularly known as WIC. WIC provides supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education at no cost to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding post-partum women, and to infants and children up to 5 years of age, who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Coupons can be redeemed until Oct. 16 allowing the recipient to have a choice of fall and summer produce. Locations of approved farmers markets can be found at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture Web site or check with your local farmers’ market to determine if they accept either or both of these voucher programs.




Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Elizabeth Buckner, 502-425-4482