Ohio Department of Aging announces $440,000 in grants to increase access to healthy, local produce for Older Ohioans

GIRARD – The Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) 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. Three $40,000 grants were awarded today to area agencies serving portions of the Mahoning Valley.

Governor Mike DeWine today held a meeting in Canfield with his agency cabinet directors. As part of the day’s planned activities throughout the Mahoning Valley, ODA Director Ursel McElroy announced the statewide grant awards for farmers’ market projects at the Girard Multi-Generational Center in Trumbull County.

McElroy today presented $40,000 checks to each of the following agencies for their “Producing Healthy Seniors” projects:

• Area Agency on Aging Region 9, Inc.’s Community Resources Offering Produce for Seniors (CROPS) program will launch initially in Muskingum and Guernsey counties. This pilot program will utilize alternative delivery methods to expand and build upon traditional farmers’ markets to bring fresh, locally grown produce to senior housing communities and community-based events.

• Direction Home Akron Canton Area Agency on Aging and Disabilities’ Mobile Markets and Senior Housing program 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.

• Direction Home of Eastern Ohio’s Nutrition in Your Neighborhood program will operate in Ashtabula and Trumbull Counties. The initiative will provide fresh produce via mobile markets at local senior centers and congregate nutrition sites.

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.

Am. Sub. House Bill 166, Ohio’s SFY 2020-2021 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. 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.

Approximately 2,140 older Ohioans are expected to be served by these three programs. “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,” said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.

“Access to healthy and nutritious food influences life expectancy and health outcomes,” McElroy said. “Since 2001, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program has connected older Ohioans and farmers. We are grateful to Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio’s General Assembly for investing in efforts to enhance proven health and wellness strategies to those older Ohioans who need them the most.”

“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.