Time short for seniors to get food vouchers

There’s only one chance left for qualifying county senior citizens to catch a break on local foods.

The Farmers Market Nutrition Assistance Program provides each eligible recipient with four $5 vouchers which can be redeemed with authorized, local food producers at qualifying farmers markets and produce stands.

According to Susan Himes, director of community development at the Allegheny Community Center, “The purpose of the program is to increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables with low income seniors and to expand the awareness, use of and sales at farmers’ markets.”

While the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture issued press release on the program on June 21, Himes noted, most opportunities to receive the vouchers locally have passed.

Himes said one more date is set to distribute the vouchers. On July 9, from 9 until 11 a.m., the vouchers will be available to eligible seniors at the Allegheny Community Center.

Not all seniors are eligible for the vouchers.

To qualify, a person must be age 60 or older by Dec. 31 and have a household income under 185 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines. The program income limits for 2013 are $21,257 for a single individual or $28,694 for a couple.

“Our farmers produce an abundance of fresh, local produce,” state Department of Agriculture Secretary George Greig said in a press release. “I encourage anyone eligible for the program to take advantage of it and enjoy a taste of Pennsylvania this summer.”

The vouchers can be redeemed in Warren County at Reeds Produce, Rt. 62 in Tidioute; Warren Farmers Market, Midtown Lot in Warren; Wenzel’s Hatch Patch, 522 Hatch Run Rd. in Warren and Wenzel’s The Sugar Patch, Rt. 957 in Sugar Grove and in Forest County at Edible Earth Farm, 22430 Rt. 62 in East Hickory; M&B Gardens, 40818 Rt. 66 in Marienville; Pleasant Valley Farm, 4792 Sage Rd. in Tionesta and Tionesta Farmers Market, Courthouse Lawn in Tionesta.

Vouchers cannot be used on processed foods such as jams, honey, cider or baked goods or on citrus and tropical fruits.

A Farmers Market Nutrition Program is also available through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program for low-income pregnant and post-partum women and to infants and children up to age five. Eligibility for the WIC program is determined through local WIC agencies, according to the Department of Agriculture press release.

The WIC program in Warren County is administered through Community Health Services, Inc. According to the WIC Pennsylvania website, the local office can be reached at 726-1093.