In Ohio, nearly 18% of residents 60 and older struggle with food security, meaning they do not have reliable access to a sufficient amount of affordable, nutritious food. That makes the state one of the 10 worst in the country when it comes to senior hunger.
At VANTAGE Aging, we continually look for ways to address the nutritional needs of our aging population. Right now, the agency is helping low-income seniors gain access to fresh fruits and vegetables through the Ohio Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program.
Funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, the Ohio Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program provides $50 in coupons to eligible older Ohioans to purchase fresh produce from participating farmers. The coupons can be redeemed for fresh, unprepared, locally sourced fruits, vegetables, herbs, and honey from farmers’ markets.
Who is Eligible for the Ohio Senior Farmers’ Market Coupons?
There are three requirements to be eligible for the Ohio Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program.
- Applicants must be 60 years or older.
- Applicants must live in a county that distributes the coupons (VANTAGE distributes in Summit, Stark, and Wayne Counties).
- Applicants must be income eligible:
- 1 Person = ≤ $22,459
- 2 People = ≤ $30,451
- 3 People = ≤ $38,443
- 4 People = ≤ $46,435
- 5 People = ≤ $54,427
VANTAGE Aging Farmers’ Market Coupons
VANTAGE distributes Farmers’ Market Vouchers to seniors in Summit, Stark, and Wayne Counties. Applications are available online and can be downloaded here.
Participating seniors should fill out the applications according to the directions for the county they live in. Note that instructions are different for Summit County residents and Stark and Wayne County residents.
Summit County Applicants
Summit County residents can pick up their Farmers’ Market coupons at the 2019 Senior Health & Services Fair. In addition to receiving coupons, attendees will be face-to-face with community resources and have access to an on-site farmers’ market. The Health Fair will be held June 12 from 8:30 AM to 12 PM at VANTAGE Aging in Akron.
If an individual is unable attend the Health Fair, they may opt to send someone else to shop on their behalf as a caregiver. The applicant must indicate the proxy and both individuals must sign.
If neither the applicant nor the proxy can attend the Health Fair in Summit County, they may mail in the application. Mailed applications will be included in a random drawing after the Health Fair.
Stark and Wayne County Applicants
Those living in Stark and Wayne Counties should fill out an application and mail it to VANTAGE Aging. A random drawing for the vouchers will take place on May 31. If your name is drawn, you will be contacted by phone during the week of June 3 and will receive instructions for picking up your coupons.
How do Farmers Get Involved in the Ohio Senior Farmers’ Market Program?
Farmers must be registered to accept the Ohio Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program coupons. Participating farmers are reimbursed for the coupons.
Help low-income seniors gain access to your fresh produce by registering to be a part of the Ohio Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program.
Merging to Provide More Meals
VANTAGE is addressing senior nutrition in more ways than one. In January 2019, Meals on Wheels of Stark & Wayne Counties and VANTAGE’s Meals on Wheels program merged their operations, creating a strategic alliance designed to address the growing need for senior services in northeast Ohio. Together, the Meals on Wheels program will continue to serve the three contiguous counties and estimates delivery of nearly 600,000 meals each year as well as 48,000 congregate meals being served.
Both agencies saw a merge as an opportunity to provide more seniors with access to nutritious meals and socialization. While their operational models are different, their goals are common – to help meet the nutritional needs of people who are homebound due to age or disability. Current Meals on Wheels clients’ services were not affected in all three counties.
Partnering to Provide Nutrition Resources
In addition to the Ohio Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program and the Meals on Wheels merger, VANTAGE is working with Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro’s Department of Job and Family Services to share information about Senior SNAP benefits.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s largest federal nutrition program. SNAP benefits help low-income individuals and families and aim to improve food security and nutrition among low-income households.
While many seniors are eligible for SNAP benefits, not everyone is taking advantage of the resource. Only 2 out of 5 eligible adults over age 60 are enrolled in SNAP. That means that 3 out of 5 seniors who qualify are missing out.
From October 2018 through April 2020, VANTAGE and Job and Family Services are joining forces to provide seniors with information on SNAP and increase enrollments. This initiative, funded by the National Council on Aging, aims to break the stigma of food assistance and help more individuals facing hunger.
How You Can Help Address Senior Hunger
Senior nutrition is a growing issue in our community. There are many ways you can help older adults who face hunger.
Sponsor an Event at VANTAGE
Does your company serve seniors, or simply want to help our aging population? Event sponsorship offers many marketing and engagement benefits for your organization.
Proceeds from both the Senior Health & Services Fair (900 attendees) and Put Hunger in Park (2,500 attendees) go towards feeding seniors through our Meals on Wheels program. By sponsoring more than one event, you receive a discount.
Volunteer with Meals on Wheels
Do you have a few hours to deliver meals to your aging neighbors? Meals on Wheels needs volunteers in both Stark and Wayne Counties. Your help makes a huge impact on the lives of seniors near you.
If your employer or company wants to start a volunteer program, you can adopt a route for employees!
Unfortunately, not all older adults are able to afford enough food to live healthy, independent lives. It takes the generosity of others to ensure that our seniors’ nutritional needs are met. It does not take a lot to help feed our community’s most vulnerable population. Consider giving today with our online donation form!
*The information in this article is intended solely to provide general information on matters of interest for the personal use of the reader, who accepts full responsibility for its use. This article should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, medical, or other competent advisors.