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Stories

A Bountiful Season

Local Seniors Benefit from Farmer’s Market Coupons

Jessica RielJessica RielEvery year, people age 60 and older across the Commonwealth benefit from the bounty of their local farmer’s markets, thanks to coupons that make local produce more accessible to low-income families and individuals.

The Mass Seniors Farmer’s Market Coupon Program (MSFMCP) provides a booklet of ten coupons, each worth $2.50, to qualifying individuals. The coupons are good from the beginning of the market season in early summer until the end of October and may only be used to purchase fresh unprepared fruits and vegetables, cut herbs and honey.

This year, 625 people were able to be served by those coupons distributed through LifePath.

“It’s a great program,” says Jane Severance, Nutrition Program Director at LifePath, who oversees the coupon book distribution. “People will go to the market and try something new, which is great.”

Some people use their coupons sparingly in the early part of the year, waiting for the storage crops to appear in the fall, while others freeze or can items to use throughout the winter months.

The benefit is more than that fresh-picked taste of farmer’s market corn-on-the-cob or the sweet, juicy delight of biting into a sun-ripened peach: a 2013 study by the American Society for Nutrition published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day has the potential to significantly increase a person’s life expectancy. Nearly 72,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 83 reported their daily intake of fruits and vegetable over the course of 13 years. People who did not eat fruits and vegetables had a 53% higher mortality rate than those who ate five servings a day; their lives were shortened by an average of three years. Eating three daily servings increased life expectancy by 32 months on average compared to those who never ate vegetables, and those who ate just one piece of fruit a day lived 19 months longer than those who never ate fruit.

Northampton Tuesday Market

There’s no question that MSFMCP helps seniors access farm-fresh produce and in turn supports the local community. Check out your local market from early summer through fall. Try adding some sun-sweetened strawberries to your breakfast cereal in June. In August, make a ratatouille from plump eggplants, red tomatoes, purple onions, and bell peppers; or roast an orange kabocha squash in October.

Many local farmers’ markets accept EBT-SNAP payments, and some, such as the Tuesday Market in Northampton and the Saturday Court Square Market in Greenfield, even have programs that offer double-value for these purchases. Ask your local farmer’s market representatives for details.

The MFMCP is sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Nutrition Program, the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, the University of Massachusetts Extension Nutrition Education Program, and the Federation of Massachusetts Farmer’s Markets. Visit www.mass.gov/massgrown to read more.