Participation in the USDA's Senior Farmers Market Nutrient Program increased in West Virginia in 2007, underscoring the value of farmers markets in terms of health and economics, says the state's commissioner of agriculture.
“Farmers markets are about more than just supporting your local farmer. They are viable options to distribute healthy food to citizens,” commissioner Kent Leonhardt said of the program that provides fresh fruits and vegetables to state residents 60 and older.
Leonhardt said the state Department of Agriculture distributed 16,655 vouchers in 2017, and 329 farmers participated in the program by accepting the vouchers.
West Virginia has one of the highest redemption rates in the country at 88 percent, and state redemption rate modestly increased from 2016. The national redemption rate is 82 percent, he said.
Leonhardt said such farmers market programs help cover the increased cost of providing healthcare to West Virginia residents.
“Each year, the West Virginia state budget increases, despite recent cuts to state agencies," Leonhardt said. "The budget growth is due to the increased cost of caring for our citizens. Farmers markets help our state on two fronts: they provide healthier foods to citizens while spurring economic growth,”
Vouchers will be distributed in June to eligible seniors over the age of 60 and can be redeemed at farmers markets for fresh fruits and vegetables.
Seniors who meet the requirements can sign up at their local senior centers beginning in June, according to the WVDA press release.