Christian County senior citizens ages 60 and up are invited to take part in a program that provides $50 worth of farmers market food and goods to those who qualify.
State Rep. Lynn Morris, R-Nixa, sponsored House Bill 1625, which was signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson to create the Missouri Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (MoSFMNP). The program provides benefit vouchers to low-income seniors ages 60 or older.
“Southwest Missouri is where we want it to take off. Actually, we’ve got the biggest group of farmers market centers right here in our area, in southwest Missouri, really more than St. Louis and Kansas City,” Morris said. “We sure would like to sign up a bunch of people in Christian County.”
Morris and Missouri Silver Haired Legislature member Mary Chronister will host a sign-up event Wednesday, July 10, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ozark Senior Center. Seniors are asked to bring the proper documentation to the sign-up event.
“If they would bring proof of their income, that way they won’t have to go back home that day,” Morris said.
There will also be a sign-up event in Sparta at Senior's Place from 1-3 p.m. on Tuesday, July 16.
In order to qualify, senior citizens must show proof of identification (a driver’s license or birth certificate), proof of residency (utility bill, paycheck stub, property tax receipt, bank statement, housing rental contract or a government-issued check) and proof of income to show that the maximum gross household income is not more than 185 percent of the annual federal poverty level (pay stub, income statement, W2, a tax return, SNAP eligibility letter or other statement of earnings).
Eligible seniors receive 10 vouchers for $5 each for a total of $50 annually for the purchase of fruits, vegetables, herbs and honey. The vouchers may be used at the Ozark Farmers Market on Thursdays at Finley Farms from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The vouchers may also be used at the Nixa Area Farmers Market, located at the intersection of Highway 14 and Main Street on Tuesdays from 4-7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The bill that created the farmer’s market vouchers secured $212,000 in federal dollars for the program’s first year.
“It’s doing great. However, it’s slow. There are about 250,000 seniors that actually qualify out of the million-plus (in Missouri). So they’re out there, and we’ve got plenty of money for them this first year,” Morris said.
Morris said farmers market vendors have responded well to the voucher program.
“We have more small farmers than we thought we were going to have, and these farmers can still sign up. They have to go through a training class.”
Participating vendors have a marking on their booth to help voucher holders find them.
“They have a really nice sign to designate which ones are participating, so you can see,” Morris said.
Morris explained that the Missouri Department of Agriculture has been a key partner in launching the voucher program and building it in a way that it can be sustained for several years to come. The Department of Agriculture also gains about 10 percent of the federal funding for administering the program, Morris said.
“The Department of Agriculture got about $21,000 for their department for the $212,000 that we received, so that department does get something,” Morris said. “We’re getting great feedback. This is a pilot program, we have to prove that we can do it.”
For more information, contact Cassi Locke at (417) 868-9528 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Citizens may also contact Rep. Morris’ office at (573) 751-2565 or (417) 725-1445.