Farmers Market Nutrition Programs provides locally grown options By: Amy Lewis

Published 4:00 pm Sunday, January 21, 2024

In an effort to bridge the gap between production agriculture and household nutrition, the Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (FMNPs) provide a vital link, enabling low-income seniors and nutritionally at-risk women and children to purchase fresh, locally grown produce directly from farmers. Comprised of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the FMNP, the women’s FMNP(WFMNP) and the Senior FMNP (SFMNP) programs, these initiatives aim to improve access to fresh, nutritious foods while supporting and promoting local farmers.

Sharlean Briggs, Butler County Extension Coordinator, emphasized the impact of the program on individuals’ budgets.

“The program helps participants extend their funds a bit,” Briggs said.  “It doesn’t seem like a lot of money but at a farmer’s market, $50 can go a long way.”

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The goals of the FMNPs are multi-faceted:

– Provide fresh, nutritious, unprepared, locally grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs to low-income seniors and nutritionally at-risk women and children;

– Increase domestic consumption of agricultural commodities by expanding or aiding in the expansion of farmers markets and roadside stands; and

– Develop new and additional farmers markets and roadside stands.

The FMNP programs specifically target individuals with a gross household income below specified limits, ensuring that those most in need have access to fresh produce. 

“It’s not just for seniors, there’s a women’s and children’s program too,” noted Briggs, highlighting the inclusivity of the program.

“The more people that come, the more vendors will come,” Briggs added, emphasizing the program’s potential to grow and benefit both consumers and local farmers.

It is important to note that not all farm stands and markets accept FMNP benefits. Vendors must register with the Department of Agriculture to participate. Currently, Greenville Farmer’s Market and Jones Produce in Georgiana are registered vendors, ensuring that participants have options for redeeming their benefits.

Richard Branum, owner of the Butler County Farmers Market, said he witnesses a good deal of vouchers being used last year and emphasized the benefit of having multiple healthy food options available in a single place.

“Even 15 or 20 years ago when we started, that was always our big thing– supplying fresh farm products to residents,” Branum said. “Now everyone can come to one location.”

 

For those interested in applying for SFMNP benefits, applications can be completed and submitted online through the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries’ website at www.agi.Alabama.gov.