A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

State program delayed to provide poor, old people with food from Farmers Markets

By Jack Brammer
NKyTribune reporter

A state program that provides fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables from Kentucky farmers’ markets to low-income, elderly people who are nutritionally at-risk has been delayed this year for a month.

The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture typically begins June 1 and ends Oct. 31 but its start this year has been delayed until July 1, said Kirk Hilbrecht, a spokesman for the department headed by Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles.

The state administers the program, which is funded with federal dollars.

Hilbrecht said the delay was due to a need to switch payments to participants this year from paper vouchers to electronic cards with a QR code or an app on a smart phone.

He said the banking institution the department has used in past years no longer processes paper vouchers and the department had to find a new way for the payments.

Even with the delay, said Hilbrecht, there remains “plenty of time to purchase” food items from participating farmers’ markets approved by the state because the program runs through Oct. 31.

The program affects about 12,500 Kentuckians and 103 farmers’ markets in the state.

Covington Farmers Market

Alexa Abner, manager of Covington Farmers Market, said she has been receiving phone calls “constantly daily” asking about the delay. She also handles distribution of the state payments to participants in Kenton County.

“People were ready to go June 1 and wondered what was going on,” she said. “We tell them the state had to switch from paper vouchers to electronic cards and the change was taking time.”

She said anyone with questions about the program and the market can call her at 859-888-0570.

Abner said participants still will be able to get the majority of fresh fruits and vegetables available this year since the program runs through the end of October but will miss out on early spring produce like sweet peas and radishes.

She called the program “a success for all involved” and said the Covington market also participates in Kentucky Double Dollars, a program that provides financial incentives up to $16 a person to participants in the senior farmers’ market program. It is a project of the Community Farm Alliance in Berea.

Newport Farmers Market

The Covington Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in downtown Covington at 3rd Street between Greenup Street and Court Street. Parking is available in the Kenton County parking garage a 220 Madison Avenue.

Tyler Offerman, food justice fellow for the Kentucky Equal Justice Center in Lexington, said he has “heard from several program participants that the changes caught them by surprise and communication about delays has been confusing.”

He said the program is beneficial to participants and farmers’ markets. The Kentucky Equal Justice Center was formed in 1976 to work with civil legal services programs in the state. It serves as a watchdog and an advocate for low-income Kentuckians of all ages.

In the state’s senior farmers’ nutrition program, a participant receives $48 on the card or in the app.

To be a participant, a person must be 60 years plus one day of age or older at the time of issuance and must meet certain income guidelines. They are listed on the department’s website at https://www.kyagr.com/consumer/senior-farmer-market.html.

Products that can be bought at the farmers’ markets also are spelled out on the website.

They include fruits, vegetables, honey and cooking herbs.

Foods not eligible include non-local, non-Kentucky grown products, such as citrus products, certain medicinal herbs, meats, eggs and cheese.

There are regular Farmers Markets in Newport, Boone County, Independence, Campbell County and Fort Thomas.

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