Highlighting the importance of providing access to fresh, locally grown produce, representatives from the state departments of Aging, Agriculture and Health announced today the availability of the 2015 Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) vouchers at the West Shore Farmers Market in Cumberland County.

“Pennsylvania is home to more than 1,000 farm markets and farm stands that partner with us to provide fresh, nutritious produce for seniors and WIC participants,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Together, we can ensure that more Pennsylvanians have the resources to enjoy our quality produce.”

Low-income and older Pennsylvanians can now apply for vouchers to purchase fresh, local produce at farmers markets and farm stands across the state through FMNP. Eligible older adults and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) participants can use four $5 vouchers to buy fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables at qualified farm market stands through the state and federal program. The funds cannot be used on processed foods such as jams, honey, nuts, cider or baked goods, or on citrus or tropical fruits.

The announcement was made by Redding, Secretary of Aging Secretary Teresa Osborne and Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy. The secretaries were joined by Director of Special Nutrition Programs Jim Harmon of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service Mid-Atlantic Region Division, as well as West Shore Farmers Market owner Greg Katshir.

As a part of the morning announcement, Redding also noted improvements to the department’s farmers’ market searchable database. Now on the website, the database is optimized for viewing on any platform, including smartphones and tablets, and uses mobile devices’ built-in location services to identify nearby markets.

“Technology is rapidly evolving and changing the way agriculture and our lives work. We made these website improvements to keep up with today’s technological advancements,” Redding added. “Residents can now quickly find a farmers market near them simply by typing in the name of the farm market or stand they’d like to visit, and the website does the rest. This program is a true example of government that works.”

Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that provide state funding in addition to federal grants for the program. As a result, all of Pennsylvania is covered by the program. Governor Wolf’s proposed budget for 2015-16 includes a $2,079,000 funding increase for the program, which would bring total funding next year to more than $5.5 million.

“This vital program supports farmers across the Commonwealth, while also providing older Pennsylvanians with access to fresh, nutritious, quality produce,” said Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne. “The Department of Aging is proud to partner with the Departments of Agriculture and Health to support a program that helps seniors on a tight budget enjoy the season’s fresh produce, and reap the benefits of healthy eating.”

To qualify for the program, individuals must be 60 or older by Dec. 31, 2015, with a total household income before taxes of less than $21,775 for a single person and $29,471 for two people.

A second program, the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program, provides vouchers to WIC recipients. The WIC program provides supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education to low-income pregnant and post-partum women, and to infants and children, up to age five, who are found to be nutritionally at-risk. Eligibility for this program is determined through local WIC agencies.

“We know that eating fresh fruits and vegetables promote health. The Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program enables families to access to healthy, fresh foods,” said Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy. “Hopefully, this will be Pennsylvania families’ first of many visits to the farmer’s market.”

Statewide, 202 farmers markets and 828 roadside farm stands currently participate in the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which operates from June 1 to November 30.

Residents should contact their local Area Agency on Aging or WIC agency for additional information, including locations, dates and times of voucher distributions. Vouchers are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

For information on where to find participating farmers markets, browse the farmers market database and search “farmers markets.”