Northampton Press

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Fighting Hunger: Programs help adults, children buy farmers market produce

Wednesday, August 8, 2018 by Shari Noctor Special to The Press in Opinion

Please cut out this article and post at your workplaces, faith-based organizations, banks and post offices — but more importantly, give it to people you know who would help WIC recipients and seniors.

The WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provide WIC recipients and low-income seniors with fresh, nutritious, unprepared, locally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs from approved farmers in Pennsylvania. Each eligible recipient receives four $5 FMNP or SFMNP checks to redeem at state Department of Agriculture-registered farmers markets, roadside stands or farm stores.

These programs are sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and are designed to help low-income households develop a relationship with a farmer who grows produce so they learn the benefits of locally grown produce, how to prepare it and how to preserve it. Grocery stores do not qualify for this program because it is intended to benefit the state farmer who grows the product as well as the local consumer.

Here’s information about the FMNP: The Pennsylvania WIC program provides nutrition services, breast-feeding support, health care, social service referrals and healthy foods to improve the nutrition and health of pregnant women, mothers, infants and young children. WIC serves the following state residents: pregnant women; breast-feeding women, for up to one year postpartum; women up to six months postpartum who are not breast-feeding; and infants and children under 5 years old, including foster children.

Income guidelines range from an annual income of $22,459 for a single expectant mother and $30,451 for a single mother of one, moving up to $46,435 for a family of four. Pennsylvania income guideline tables are available at the WIC website, pawic.com/IncomeGuidelines. FMNP checks are distributed to WIC recipients at a WIC office during their quarterly visit (May through September). Checks are redeemed like cash to the farm stand vendor or farmer.

Here’s information about the SFMNP: Seniors must be 60 or older by Dec. 31 of the program year and meet the income eligibility guidelines. Income eligibility is based on 185 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines. The guidelines are published each year by the USDA. Income includes interest, Social Security, wages, etc. Senior poverty guidelines for households are the same as those for the WIC guidelines — an annual income of $22,459 for a single senior and $30,451 for a senior in a household of two.

You apply for and receive your SFMNP checks at your county area Agency on Aging. If you missed the distribution, you can call the Lehigh County office at 610-782-3034 or the Northampton County office at 610-829-4540 for information on how to get your SFMNP checks. If you cannot get out yourself to redeem your checks, you can get a proxy form on the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture website, agriculture.pa.gov, for someone who is able to pick up the produce for you. If you need assistance getting a form, you can get help at your area Agency on Aging office, your state representative’s office or your local library.

FMNP checks are currently being issued through mid-September 2018 and must be used by Nov. 30. These checks can only be used to purchase locally grown produce, so while you cannot purchase citrus fruit, bananas or other tropical fruits, since they are not grown in our local orchards, you can purchase fresh strawberries, peaches, carrots, tomatoes, sweet corn and much more when it is in season and available from local growers. You cannot purchase processed food like jams, honey, nuts, cider or baked goods.

Are there any restrictions to where you can buy? Yes, because you can only buy from the Pennsylvania farmers who grow their produce, and the farmers have to register for the program to participate. That’s why you can’t buy at a supermarket. There are several locations in Lehigh and Northampton counties. The ones closest to our area include:

Whitehall: Lazarus Farm Market, 3605 Rural Road, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays

North Whitehall: Newhard Farms Corn Shed, 3250 Mauch Chunk Road, Coplay, 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays; and Strawberry Acres, 1767 Clearview Road, Coplay, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays and Sundays

Northampton: Cihylik Farms and Greenhouses, 3848 Cherryville Road, 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Mondays through Sundays; Covered Bridge Farm, 65 Covered Bridge Road, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays through Sundays; Misty Valley Farm, 1425 Valley Road, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and Northampton Borough Farmers Market, Laubach Avenue & Smith Lane, 3-6:30 p.m. Tuesdays

Vendors: Covered Bridge Farm and Twin Maple Farm