UNION COUNTY — As it has for many years the Union County Council on Aging is again serving as Union County distribution point for $10,000 worth of vouchers that will enable low-income senior citizens to purchase fresh produce from local farmers.
Council on Aging Director Tim Black said Friday that Union County has been allotted $10,000 worth of Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) vouchers. Under the program, qualified low-income seniors each receive five $5 vouchers they can use to purchase $25 worth of fresh fruits and vegetables from the Union County Farm & Craft Market. The Farm & Craft Market is located at 106 Lakeside Drive (in front of the YMCA), Union, and is scheduled to open on Saturday, June 13.
While the Union County Council on Aging will be serving as the distribution point for the vouchers as it has in years past, registration for and distribution of the vouchers will be handled differently due to the COVID-19 Virus.
“Three days ago they told us this would all be done online,” Black said. “We used to do it here, but now it will be online. Clients will log on to dss.sc.gov and fill out the application. This is because of the COVID-19 Virus and the need for social distancing.”
Black said that persons who do not have access to a computer can call the Union County Carnegie Library at 864-427-7140 and someone will take their application over the phone and submit it for them.
Current clients of the Union County Council on Aging will not have to go online, however, to file and submit their applications.
“The Catawba Area Agency on Aging will be contacting current clients by phone and will submit their applications,” Black said.
Besides making their applications online or, in the case of current Council on Aging clients, over the telephone with the assistance of the Catawba Area Agency on Aging, another change due to the COVID-19 Virus is how the vouchers will be distributed.
“All approvals will be redirected back to here and we will set up a date for them to drive by and pick up their produce vouchers,” Black said. “We can’t allow them to come inside so we will do it curbside.”
The Union County Council on Aging will receive a total of 400 SFMNP vouchers for distribution. Black said that the deadline for submitting applications is May 25.
For more information call the Union County Council on Aging at 864-429-1682.
According to the South Carolina Department of Social Services website (dss.sc.gov) the Senior’s Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) “is a seasonal USDA grant program to provide participants with fresh, nutritious, unprocessed fruits and vegetables from local farmers’ markets and to increase awareness and use of community markets. … The program provides low-income seniors age 60 and older, in selected areas, with SFMNP checks that may be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at local authorized farmers’ markets. The Program runs from May 1st through October 15th each year. SFMNP benefits are offered to each participant once a year. Seniors must apply for benefits each year.”
Eligibility & Benefit
The website states that “benefits are issued on a first-come, first-served basis until all benefits are issued.” It states that in order to be eligible for the SFMNP a person must be:
• 60 years of age or older on the date of application
• Reside in one of the 42 participating counties
• May self-declare their total household income before taxes. Total household income, however, cannot exceed 185 percent of federal poverty income limits.
Steps To Receive Benefits
The website lists the following steps that can be taken to apply for and receive the benefits of participation in the program.
Step 1: Potential recipients must submit an online application, in its entirety, to be eligible.
Upon submission of the online application, potential recipients will receive a confirmation number (please retain this confirmation number for your records). To apply online go to https://benefitsportal.dss.sc.gov/#/benefits/sfmnp/application.
Step 2: Wait on eligibility determination, via email.
Eligibility determination can consist of application approved, application referred to waiting list, or application denial. Instructions to pick up the SFMNP checks will also be included in the eligibility determination email.
Step 3: Follow instructions included in eligibility email to pick up SFMNP benefit(s).
Proof of identity (valid Driver’s License or State Issued Identification Card) must be shown in order to pick up SFMNP checks.
Seniors who have been confirmed to receive SFMNP vouchers may select an authorized representatives to pick up their vouchers for them. The authorized representative must present their ID, applicant’s ID, and confirmation number.
Step 4: Purchase fresh fruits & vegetables from authorized farmers.
A listing of authorized farmers will be provided at pickup. Eligible participants will receive 5 SFMNP checks worth $5.00 each; for a total benefit of $25.00 that can be used at participating farmers’ market to purchase fresh, locally grown produce.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.