We were proud to be included in the February 2022 issue of “At the Table,” the USDA Food and Nutrition Service newsletter for the Northeast Region. And even more proud to be assisting in this vital service for seniors in our community.
RI DEM Pilots Direct Purchase Model via SFMNP Delivering Fresh Produce to Eligible Seniors
(By Jay Wegimont, Programming Services Officer, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management)
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) successfully extended its Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) bulk purchase pilot program throughout November and December 2021, resulting in an estimated 2,500 boxes of fresh, nutritious food being delivered to eligible seniors. The purpose of this program is to keep food security funds in Rhode Island.
“The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically decreased visits to farmers’ markets by eligible seniors, who exchanged coupons for fruits, vegetables, fresh-cut herbs, and other foods,” said DEM Acting Director Terry Gray. “Earlier this year, DEM’s Division of Agriculture created a pilot bulk purchase program after the growing number of unredeemed coupons necessitated the change to deliver healthy, nutritious food directly to low-income Rhode Island seniors. The success led DEM to switch completely over to a bulk purchase program in 2022 and not rely on coupons at all.”
DEM is grateful for the responsiveness of its Division of Agriculture team, including Christopher Rueckel and Jack Sisson and gladly acknowledges program partners Farm Fresh Rhode Island (FFRI) and the Rhode Island Office of Healthy Aging for helping to ensure that food insecure older Rhode Islanders can meet their basic food needs. FFRI sourced, packaged and delivered the food boxes to 30 different sites across the state. Together, DEM and FFRI plan to triple the amount of delivery sites in the coming 2022 season to ensure Rhode Island seniors in every corner of the state can rely on fresh and nutritious food. DEM will continue to do both outreach and training with farmers on how the SFMNP works, how they can get involved, and how the program benefits seniors, senior centers, nutrition sites and statewide agriculture.
(Photo credit: Jessica Watson, MW Photography and Narrative Services)