Ohio Department of Aging Grants Increase Access to Local Produce for Older Ohioans

Ohio Department of Aging Grants Increase Access to Local Produce for Older Ohioans

The Ohio Department of Aging announced it is awarding 11 grants totaling $440,000 to Ohio’s area agencies on aging to build or expand partnerships increasing access to nutritious food for low-income older Ohioans.

The ODA’s Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provides income-eligible older adults with access to fresh, nutritious, unprepared, locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs and honey through farmers’ markets and roadside stands. The program, previously available in 45 of Ohio’s 88 counties, is in high demand. In 2018, nearly 35,000 older Ohioans redeemed more than 65,000 cash-based coupons to purchase local produce from 440 local farmers. The program is made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as state and local funds.

“Access to healthy and nutritious food influences life expectancy and health outcomes,” says Ursel McElroy, director of Ohio Department of Aging in a press release. “Since 2001, the SFMNP has connected older Ohioans and farmers. We are supporting and expanding healthy eating and being engaged in communities.”

Am. Sub. House Bill 166, Ohio’s SFY 2020-21 operating budget, includes additional general revenue funds to expand the SFMNP. Through a program called “Producing Healthy Seniors,” the department is awarding grants to area agencies on aging and contracted SFMNP partners who will develop, implement, monitor, and evaluate new and expanded efforts during the 2020 growing season. 

“Producing Healthy Seniors” projects must support at least two sites within their service areas, including making produce available in non-traditional locations such as senior housing communities, local senior centers and congregate meal sites. In addition, area agencies will partner with local food advocacy networks and established community partners to provide food and additional services and resources, such as on-site nutrition education, cooking demonstrations and healthy recipes for participants. 

Three $40,000 checks were provided to three Ohio agencies for their “Producing Healthy Seniors” projects, including Direction Home Akron Canton Area Agency on Aging and Disabilities’ Mobile Markets and Senior Housing program that will launch in Summit and Stark counties. The program will provide convenient delivery methods for fresh produce. Contracting with two local partners, StarkFresh and Fox Family Farms, mobile markets will be set up at senior housing communities for individuals who would otherwise be unable to travel to traditional farmers’ markets

The grant awards encourage innovative approaches to increase food access and target areas of the state with high rates of older adult poverty and food insecurity. The grants will expand the program into counties not currently participating in Ohio’s SFMNP, as well as add new services and benefits where the program already operates.

“Producing Healthy Seniors” will extend local produce access to more than 6,700 older adults across Ohio. 

“Visiting farmers’ markets are often part of Ohio families’ routines in the summer and fall, and this funding ensures that older Ohioans continue to have access to fresh, local produce,” says Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, according to the press release.

— Courtesy of Ohio Department of Aging, aging.ohio.gov

Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program 

The Department of Aging partners with area agencies on aging to offer Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program in 45 counties. Participants can receive coupons, which can be redeemed for Ohio-grown fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs and honey, to use at participating farmers markets and roadside stands. Some restrictions may apply. 

To find out about SFMNP availability and area markets, reach out to the following regional contacts:

Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties:

Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging 

Karen Webb, 216-727-2624,
[email protected]

Connie Benedum, 216-539-9211,
[email protected]

Ann Stahlheber, 216-586-3412,
[email protected]

Portage, Stark, Summit and Wayne counties:

Direction Home Akron Canton Area Agency on Aging & Disabilities

Jill Riffle, 330-899-5229,
[email protected]

For more information, visit aging.ohio.gov


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