Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program


Program Basics

The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) is a program that awards grants to States, United States territories, and federally-recognized Indian tribal governments to provide low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for eligible foods at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture programs.The majority of the grant funds must be used to support the costs of the foods that are provided under the SFMNP.State agencies may use up to 10 percent of their grants to support administrative costs for the program.

The purposes of the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program are to:

  • Provide resources in the form of fresh, nutritious, unprepared, locally grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs from farmers’ markets, roadside stands and community supported agriculture programs to low-income seniors.
  • Increase the domestic consumption of agricultural commodities by expanding or aiding in the expansion of domestic farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture programs.
  • Develop or aid in the development of new and additional farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture programs.

Low-income seniors, generally defined as individuals who are at least 60 years old and who have household incomes of not more than 185% of the federal poverty income guidelines (published each year by the Department of Health and Human Services) are the targeted recipients of SFMNP benefits.Some State agencies accept proof of participation or enrollment in another means-tested program, such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program or Food Stamps, for SFMNP eligibility.

SFMNP benefits are provided to eligible recipients for use during the harvest season.In some States, the SFMNP season is relatively short, because the growing season in that area is not very long.  In other States with longer growing seasons, recipients have a longer period of time in which to use their SFMNP benefits.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers the SFMNP grants.However, state agencies are the first point of contact for applicants who wish to receive funding.  State agency contacts are listed below under “USDA Contacts.”

2008 Farm Bill Changes

The primary change to the SNFMP in the 2008 Farm Bill is the increase in mandatory funding from $15 million per year to $20.6 million per year.

Section 4231 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008 amends Section 4402 of the 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, to be codified at 7 U.S.C. Section 3007.

Funding

The new Farm Bill provides $20.6 million to operate the seniors’ market grants this year, an increase of $5.6 million in mandatory funds.An additional $1.2 million in FY 2007 unspent funds were awarded in 2008.In 2010, 51 state agencies and tribal organizations received funding.

Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) Funding

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

$21.8 M

$20.6 M

$20.6 M

$20.6 M

$20.6 M

Please note:The funding levels in the chart above show the amount of mandatory funding reserved by the 2008 Farm Bill for this program to be provided through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation.  However, Congress does at times pass subsequent appropriations legislation that caps the funding level for a particular year for a particular program at less than provided by the farm bill in order to use the resulting savings to fund a different program.  Therefore, despite its “mandatory” status, the funding level for a given year could be less than the farm bill dictates should the Appropriations Committee decide to raid the farm bill to fund other programs under its jurisdiction.

Implementation Basics

USDA provides SFMNP funding to states and tribal organizations who submit an approved plan to their state office.Previous grantees are guaranteed the same level of funding they received in the last fiscal year, as long as they spent 80 percent of their prior grant, and their new annual state plan is approved.Provided that funding is available after allocation of funds to former recipients, 75 percent of the remaining funds go to expand current programs, and 25 percent goes to new states.  USDA awarded $22.4 million to 50 state agencies and tribal organizations to conduct programs in 2009.

Examples of Past Grant Recipients

The Maine Senior FarmShare Program received funding to provide fresh, unprocessed, locally grown produce at no cost to low-income seniors, who receive community supported agriculture (CSA) shares in local farms through the program.

The Alabama Farmers Market Authority received funding to provide vouchers to seniors to buy fresh fruits and vegetables from farmers, farmers’ markets and farm stands in every county in the state.

Additional Resources

USDA Food and Nutrition Service website for SFMNP

For a list of all State and Tribal Agency contacts for SFMNP, click here.