Benefits increasing this summer for program helping SC seniors access fresh produce
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Soon enough, summertime fruits and vegetables will be in season and available across South Carolina.
A program that helps the state’s seniors access fresh produce while also supporting local farmers will soon be back.
“We know that the senior population in South Carolina is growing. We know that senior citizens, many times, are on fixed incomes. Their expenses are going up across the board, whether it’s housing or medical care,” Connelly-Anne Ragley of the South Carolina Department of Social Services said.
Ragley said the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is one of the department’s most popular programs.
It’s federally funded and expanded last year to include residents of all 46 South Carolina counties.
“This program really has two purposes,” Ragley said. “The first is getting healthy fruits and vegetables onto the dinner plates and the tables of South Carolina senior citizens, and with that, we’re able to help farmers and locally grown produce.”
Through the program, qualifying seniors receive $50 in five $10 vouchers that they can spend on fresh produce at approved roadside stands and farmers’ markets.
That amount is double the money available last year.
“That’s why they’re in separate increments, so senior citizens don’t feel like they have to use it all at one time,” Ragley said.
These vouchers are valid throughout the summer, from June 1 to Sept. 30.
South Carolina residents who are at least 60 years old qualify, if their income is at or below $25,142 for one person or $33,874 for two people.
“We encourage senior citizens to redeem those vouchers if you’re approved and you receive them because that’s how the state is judged, and if we want to continue to offer a higher benefit amount for participating senior citizens, they need to make sure they’re redeeming those vouchers,” Ragley said.
Applications are being accepted right now, but only in person at senior-serving organizations in every county. There is no online application available.
Seniors have to bring a photo ID with them to apply.
If they are approved, they can receive their vouchers on the same day.
The Department of Social Services has more information on applications and where to apply on its website.
People can also get assistance by calling (803) 898-1760 or emailing SFMNP-Applications@dss.sc.gov.
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