Morris County Continues To Deliver Fresh Produce to Seniors

Source: RLS Media

Morris County officials announced that the Morris County Nutrition Program and Ort Farms are partnering for their third year to deliver fresh produce to senior citizens this summer through a farm-to-table pilot program. The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) is federally funded. In Morris County, the program is being administered through the Morris County Division on Aging, Disabilities, and Community Programming .

Vouchers are provided to income-eligible seniors during the summer that can be exchanged for fruits, vegetables, honey, and fresh-cut herbs from participating farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture initiatives, officials stated.

“Historically, (SFMNP) has been running for many years. However, the farm-to-table pilot program was first launched in 2021 in response to the pandemic’s impact on seniors’ ability to leave their residences,” Christine Hellyer, director of the Morris County Division on Aging, Disabilities, and Community Programming.

“Morris County partnered with Ort Farms in 2021, where the vouchers were still administered, and seniors were allowed to have the county coordinate delivery. The program proved successful and has continued, with a few changes to this year’s program.”

According to Morris County officials, changes to the farm-to-table program in 2023 included digitizing the voucher process by adding QR codes to plastic cards on lanyards that seniors wear while visiting participating farmer’s markets.

It helped to reduce the possible misplacement of vouchers. Additionally, officials said the distribution amount per person in a household increased from $30 to $50, ultimately equating to $25 worth of produce delivered on two separate occasions.

Officials say 72 bags of produce will be delivered to two senior housing units this season. For the first 36 deliveries made on July 18 and 19, seniors were delighted to receive bags containing blueberries, peaches, string beans, potatoes, tomatoes, sweet corn, and cantaloupe. A second delivery of seasonal fruits and vegetables is scheduled for September.

To further encourage participation this year, officials stated that each senior who pre-registered for a produce bag received an indoor sprout blossom kit with the produce. The sprout blossom kit contains mixed herbs that grow under sunlight and can easily be adhered to windows and walls.

“We’ve also been distributing incentive bags to housing units with large populations of seniors, so housing unit coordinators can better understand what seniors would receive. In any population of seniors, there is a proportion who’s homebound,” stated Hellyer.

“It’s important to have this outreach and let them know what they might be missing out on.”

“Seniors have more flexibility to travel again, and mobile market food pantries are popping up in different places, but a need is we’ll there—and we’ll keep delivering until that need is met!” stated Nutrition Program Director Rhea Young, who personally delivers the bags with support from a community service worker and two interns.

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