Mayor Wesely today kicked-off the new Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Pilot Program, which provides coupons to eligible senior citizens to buy fresh produce at farmers markets, like the ones in Lincoln's Haymarket. Seniors who are at least 60 years old and meet low-income guidelines can now sign up for the coupons at their nearest senior center.
City officials worked with officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the creation of the program. In January, the USDA awarded Nebraska a $200,000 grant to operate the program. The City of Lincoln applied to the state for funds and received $21,180 for Lancaster County residents. The city will operate its program through the Lincoln Area Agency on Aging (LAAA), which is working with the Nebraska Agriculture Department and the Division of Aging and Disability Services in the Nebraska Health and Human Services System.
"This pilot program is a great way for seniors to improve their nutrition and for area produce growers to increase their sales," Mayor Wesely said. "Our farmers markets are very popular because they are fun places to get fresh food, and having more of our older residents take part is positive for all. The farmers markets and the new coupon program provide a great way to link Lincoln residents with our rural neighbors and farmers who produce the food. The more opportunities we can create to connect agriculture with the city consumers, the better it is for agriculture and consumers."
"The fact is that most of us don't eat enough fruits or vegetables," said LAAA Dietitian Denise Boyd. "As a Registered Dietitian I have promoted ‘strive for five' when it comes to the servings of produce we should eat every day, and I've recently modified to ‘eight is great.' This can be difficult for our low-income seniors, and the new coupon program will be a big help."
This year's Haymarket Farmers Market runs from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays, May 5 through October 27. The Lincoln Downtown Senior Center is open Saturdays and will provide transportation from the homes of older adults to the center, then to the Farmers Market and back home again. Participants are encouraged to stay at the center for lunch. Those wanting more information or to make reservations can call 441-7506.
The Tuesday Open Air Market runs from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. May 15 through July 31 at 12th and "R" streets. It is a joint effort of the City of Lincoln, UN-L and the Downtown Lincoln Association.