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Department of Agriculture program brings fresh produce to low-income Missourians

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo — Low-income seniors and recipients of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) have a chance to access farm fresh produce for free this harvest season. 

June 1 was the first day eligible residents could apply to receive state-issued vouchers to purchase produce with. The vouchers will be available until Sept. 30 and can be used until Oct. 31. 

Vouchers and produce are provided through both the Missouri Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) and the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (WICFMNP).

The program is designed to give seniors and WIC participants in Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield and the Mid-Missouri area access to fresh produce that would normally not be available nor affordable.

For eligible seniors, 10 vouchers worth $5 each are available to use at participating locations. Seniors are encouraged to register a proxy, usually a spouse, that can receive an additional 10 vouchers.

Seniors can register one proxy per household, setting a limit of $100 in vouchers.

For WIC recipients, four vouchers worth $5 each are available per child. The total amount of usable vouchers can vary based on the amount and age of the children. 

WIC recipients can receive their vouchers at the same agency where they receive their WIC benefits.

“Each of these programs provides the opportunity to purchase fresh, delicious products grown and raised by Missouri producers,” Chris Chinn, director of agriculture for the state said. “Recipients, growers and the local economy all benefit from these worthwhile programs.”

The SFMNP program began in 2019, while this year is the first year for the WIC FMNP. 

The language that added WIC to this program was championed by Rep. Martha Stevens, a Democrat from Boone county, back in 2021. Stevens added the language to an existing bill at the time, HB 432. Now for the first time, Missourians eligible for WIC will get to see the benefits of this program.

This year’s program could provide much needed help, with high inflation and overall slow economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic. Low and fixed income seniors and WIC recipients have been among those hit the hardest by the financial impacts of COVID-19.

Many counties across the state have participating farmer’s markets. 46 counties in total are participating this season and over 200 Missouri farms are selling their products at markets and roadside stands. 

Farmers at these markets will be using special signs to advertise their participation in the program and acceptance of vouchers. Farmers receive special training through the Missouri Grown program to participate.

According to the Department of Agriculture website, eligible foods must be “fresh, unprepared, Missouri fruits, vegetables, honey and herbs in their raw form. They may not be processed or prepared beyond their natural state except for usual harvesting and cleaning processes” 

Honey-based produce is only available to seniors in the program.

There is a small list of ineligible foods, which include fruits and vegetables not grown in Missouri, dried fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs and dairy products. 

The full list of participating counties can be found here. Other information, such as the full eligible lists of produce, can also be found there. 

Seniors can apply for their vouchers at four locations across Missouri:

  • Springfield – SeniorAge Area Agency on Aging, (417) 862-0762
  • St. Louis County and St. Louis City – Aging Ahead, (636) 207-0847
  • Kansas City – University of Missouri Extension, (816) 482-5850
  • Columbia – Aging Best, (573) 443-5823

Featured Image courtesy of the Missouri Department of Agriculture.