Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program in Florida
The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) in Florida is a nutrition program designed to improve the health of low-income senior citizens by expanding their access to fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables. SFMNP in Florida represents a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences extension agencies. Those Florida residents eligible for SFMNP are senior citizens with limited incomes who live in specific counties within the state. Participants receive coupons from the program to obtain free fresh produce and other eligible foods at farmer’s markets. The SFMNP application process is managed by local agencies providing services to senior citizens. UF extension agencies are in charge of providing educational programs to inform seniors about the nutritional value of fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, and the best ways to select, store and prepare foods purchased with SFMNP coupons. Seniors can learn more about the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program in FL when in the sections below. Information includes SFMNP eligibility requirements, how to apply for SFMNP benefits, and which foods are eligible for purchase with program coupons.
Who is Eligible for the Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program?
SFMNP eligibility in FL is determined by representatives at local senior citizen agencies participating in the SFMNP application process based on the applicant’s income and age. Low-income seniors meet SFMNP eligibility requirements if they are 60 years of age, or older and have a household income of not more than 185 percent of the current federal poverty income guidelines. The Florida Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program is currently offered to low-income elderly residents in limited counties in the state, including Alachua, Jackson and Bay counties, although the program can expand to include other counties as funding for the program increases. Note that SFMNP eligibility must be recertified annually and cannot be carried over from the previous year. Those seniors seeking information on SNAP benefits should explore options like SFMNP to apply for the most food assistance possible.
How to Apply for SFMNP Benefits
Those wondering how to apply for SFMNP benefits in Florida should first make sure that their county of residence appears on the list of participating counties. The SFMNP application process is handled by the participating county’s agency for senior citizen services and assistance. These agencies are sometimes referred to as a senior citizens foundation, an elder county services agency or a council on aging. Because the process for how to apply for SFMNP benefits can vary slightly by county, you should consult with the local agency for the necessary application process. In most cases, you are eligible for SFMNP if you already meet eligibility guidelines for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or other means-tested benefits like Medicaid or Section 8 housing assistance. If not, your Florida SFMNP application process may require you to provide proof of income for each person living in your household.
If approved after completing the SFMNP application process, your local program coordinator will issue your coupons and provide you with a list of the closest participating farmers’ markets. Despite being eligible for SFMNP benefits, some applicants may end up on a wait list. The USDA only awards a certain number of coupons to participating agencies and they are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. As with most government assistance programs, if your SFMNP application is denied you have the right to file an appeal. Your local program coordinator can give you directions on how to appeal a decision to decline benefits for your SFMNP application.
What Foods are Available Through the SFMNP?
After completing the application process and receiving approval, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) in Florida provides low-income senior citizens with coupons redeemable for a wide variety of fresh, nutritious foods. All items eligible for SFMNP in Florida must be purchased at local farmers’ markets, from vendors displaying a sign stating their participation in SFMNP. All program-eligible foods must be grown within a certain radius of the local farmer’s market. Produce bearing SFMNP eligibility must not be processed or prepared beyond their natural state, although they may be cut by the harvesting process and cleaned before selling. Senior citizens may use SFMNP coupons to purchase the following:
- Locally-grown fruits and vegetables.
- Fresh-cut herbs.
- Locally-produced raw honey in certain forms as detailed by the Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program rules.
Foods not eligible for SFMNP include the following, even if they are locally grown and readily available at a participating Florida farmers’ market:
- Dried fruits, vegetables or herbs.
- Potted fruit, vegetable or herb plants.
- Seeds or nuts, even if raw and unshelled.
- Natural liquid sweeteners other than raw honey.
- Cider or juice.
- Meat, eggs, cheese or seafood.
All foods purchased with Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program coupons are intended for consumption by the SFMNP participant and should not be shared with other household members.
For more information on food eligible for the Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program, click here for an in-depth guide.
When Does the Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program Operate in Florida?
Florida SFMNP benefits are available during the spring and summer months. Those found eligible for SFMNP but wait-listed can sometimes use coupons after the designated coupon season if others failed to use theirs during the allotted time frame. The SFMNP application process includes guidelines dictating that no coupons may be redeemed after November 30 of each year.
For more information about Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program, click here for our comprehensive guide.