Grants Awarded to Increase Access to Healthy, Local Produce for Older Ohioans

December 19, 2019

The Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) announced that it is awarding 11 grants totaling $440,000 to Ohio’s area agencies on aging to build or expand partnerships increasing access to nutritious food for low-income older Ohioans.  In our west-central Ohio region, the $40,000 grant will support a mobile market for low-income seniors that will be piloted in Montgomery County. 

Ohio’s SFY 2020-2021 operating budget includes additional general revenue funds to expand ODA’s Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) that was previously available in 45 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Through a program called “Producing Healthy Seniors,” the department is awarding grants to area agencies on aging and contracted SFMNP partners who will develop, implement, monitor, and evaluate new and expanded efforts during the 2020 growing season. The grant awards encourage innovative approaches to increase food access and target areas of the state with high rates of older adult poverty and food insecurity. The grants will expand the program into counties not currently participating in Ohio’s SFMNP, as well as add new services and benefits where the program already operates.

“Producing Healthy Seniors” projects must support at least two sites within their service areas, including making produce available in non-traditional locations such as senior housing communities, local senior centers, and congregate meal sites. In addition, area agencies will partner with local food advocacy networks and established community partners to provide food and additional services and resources, such as on-site nutrition education, cooking demonstrations, and healthy recipes for participants.

SFMNP provides income-eligible older adults with access to fresh, nutritious, unprepared, locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, and honey through farmers’ markets and roadside stands. In 2018, nearly 35,000 older Ohioans redeemed more than 65,000 cash-based coupons to purchase local produce from 440 local farmers. The program is made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as state and local funds.

“Visiting farmers’ markets are often part of Ohio families’ routines in the summer and fall, and this funding ensures that older Ohioans continue to have access to fresh, local produce,” said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.

“Access to healthy and nutritious food influences life expectancy and health outcomes,” ODA Director Ursel McElroy said.  “Since 2001, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program has connected older Ohioans and farmers. We are supporting and expanding healthy eating and being engaged in communities.”

“We are grateful to Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio’s General Assembly for investing in efforts to enhance proven health and wellness strategies to those older Ohioans who need them the most,” McElroy added.

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