FNS awards $50 million for improving seniors’ access to locally grown foods, strengthening supply chain resilience

USDA Food and Nutrition Service today announced $50 million in grants to 47 states and tribes to modernize and expand the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program at farmers markets, roadside stands and community supported agriculture programs. These grants will allow states to reach more eligible seniors by funding the $50 maximum benefit for up to 250,000 more eligible seniors, while expanding geographic areas served and transitioning to online training and electronic benefits transfer in some states.

“FNS is making strides in modernizing our programs to best meet the needs of those we serve and promote nutrition security across the nation,” said Cindy Long, Food and Nutrition Service administrator. “By expanding the reach of farmers markets, more seniors with low incomes will have access to locally grown produce that supports optimal health and well-being.”

These projects will help strengthen supply chain resiliency by improving access to and encouraging consumption of locally grown foods, shortening the food supply chain by supporting direct farmer-to-consumer transactions.

Projects planned with the funding, provided by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, include: Transitioning from a coupon-based system to electronic benefits transfer system, allowing seniors to pay for purchases conveniently and securely, the same way other farmers market shoppers pay,

Expanding the program to areas beyond its current reach. Serving up to 250,000 more eligible seniors in areas currently participating in the program,

Increasing benefit amounts to the $50 maximum in states without funding for the maximum benefit, and implementing other program improvements, such as: Online applications and training for farmers interested in participating, web-based farmers market and farm stand directories, and regional maps; and outreach to vulnerable populations and/or high concentrations of eligible seniors through partnerships with community organizations.

FNS encourages modernization and innovation to better serve those who rely on our programs for the healthy foods and nutrition that are part of a healthy lifestyle. These initiatives are intended to keep SFMNP operations running smoothly as some states choose to transition to electronic benefits transactions, and to increase the use of program benefits at existing and new farmers markets.

The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program provides eligible seniors with access to fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and honey in 48 states, Puerto Rico and eight tribal areas. These foods help support nutrition security, ensuring older Americans have consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, affordable foods essential to good health.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of more than 15 nutrition assistance programs, such as the school breakfast and lunch programs, WIC and SNAP. Together, these programs serve 1 in 4 Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food essential to optimal health and well-being. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. FNS’s report, “Leveraging the White House Conference to Promote and Elevate Nutrition Security: The Role of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service,” highlights ways the agency will support the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy, released in conjunction with the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022. To learn more about FNS, visit www.fns.usda.gov and follow @USDANutrition.