The full warm-weather blitz of fresh local produce will soon let loose at Arlington farmer’s markets and the County’s Agency on Aging wants to give low-income seniors a little help in taking advantage of the summertime bounty.
Older Arlington residents meeting federally designated income thresholds can apply between now and July 31 to receive one-time coupons—valued at $40 for individuals or $80 for couples—to use on a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs grown in Virginia by local producers. Examples include tomatoes, sweet corn, berries, melons and peaches. The coupons cannot be used on baked goods, prepared foods or non-local produce.
Five Arlington farmers market locations are participating in the coupon program this year: Crystal City (Tuesdays), Ballston (Thursdays and Sundays), Courthouse Plaza (Saturdays) and Columbia Pike and Westover (Sundays).
To qualify, participants must be Arlington residents age 60 or older and have maximum monthly income of $1,518 for single individuals or $2,058 for couples.
Those interested in participating must apply by July 31—and the sooner the better, as the program has limited funds and accepts participants on a first-come, first-served basis. More than 650 people participated last year and the program often has a waitlist.
Easy to apply and participate
The Agency on Aging has made the application process easy, including offering both online and print applications in English and Spanish. It has also partnered with senior independent residences, senior centers and others to get the word out about the program.
If you know someone who might like to participate, help them by sending them the link to the online application or printing off the paper application and assisting in completing and submitting the application. Last year, more than a third of participants applied using the convenient online form.
Another way the Agency on Aging is making it easier for seniors to participate is by coordinating transportation from select senior independent residences, including Culpepper Garden, to Saturday and Sunday market locations. The agency also allows participants to designate a proxy to pick up their produce on their behalf.
About the program
The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and administered by states, U.S. Territories and federally recognized Indian tribal governments. The Arlington Agency on Aging is one of 11 participating agencies in Virginia.
In addition to providing fresh, nutritious food to low-income seniors, the federal program also aims to support local agriculture. In 2015, the last year for which federal data were available, more than 817,000 seniors across the U.S. and its territories received benefits, supporting more than 20,000 local farmers.
As Arlington’s 2018 farmers market season hits its stride, don’t let your older, low-income neighbors, friends or family members miss out on this great opportunity. As one of last year’s participants said, “The food is fresh, it’s good, and we can get it near our home!”