DOAG: FARMERS’ MARKET NUTRITION PROGRAMS



June 27, 2018

FARMERS’ MARKET NUTRITION PROGRAMS

Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Conservation

There are 114 farmers’ markets in Connecticut and in 2018 more than 90% are participating in the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP)s administered by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture (DoAg).

DoAg administers two separate nutrition programs at authorized Connecticut Farmers’ Markets—the Connecticut Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) FMNP and the Connecticut Senior (S) FMNP.

Both programs provide low-income individuals with checks for the purchase of fresh Connecticut Grown produce and cut herbs directly from farmers at FMNP authorized farmers’ markets from July 1 to October 31. Eligible seniors can also use their SFMNP checks to purchase Connecticut Grown honey at FMNP authorized farmers’ markets.

These nutrition programs were introduced to Connecticut farmers’ markets in the late 1980s when Connecticut was chosen as one of 10 pilot states to offer the FMNP. The first year was a success, and the program has continued to grow in size and in popularity since.

The FMNPs benefit eligible seniors, as well as women, infants, and children, who are considered “nutritionally at risk,” by providing a supplemental source of funding to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.

The programs also promote agricultural diversification by stimulating the demand for fresh Connecticut Grown fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets.

The WIC FMNP is a Congressionally authorized program jointly funded by the State of Connecticut and the United States Department of Agriculture – Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS)’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for WIC, and the State of Connecticut. WIC FMNP was established by Congress in 1992.

WIC FMNP funds are provided to eligible individuals in the form of checkbooks. Each eligible recipient receives a book of five $3 WIC FMNP checks, per market season, for a total of $15 per individual. For example, a family with three eligible individuals would receive a total of $45.

Farmers at authorized farmers’ market are certified to accept FMNP checks for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables. Farmers then deposit the FMNP checks directly into their bank account at any Connecticut financial institution (bank, savings and loan, credit union, etc.) by appropriately endorsing each check.

To be eligible to accept FMNP checks, a Connecticut farmer must grow the majority of products the farm offers for sale at an authorized farmers’ market. An individual engaged in the buying and reselling of farm products, who grow less than 50% of the items sold by the farm/business at an authorized farmers’ market, is not eligible for FMNP certification.

An on-farm site visit is required for the initial certification of a farm. The site visit includes a review of the FMNP rules and regulations, and a tour of all production areas associated with the farm.

The farmer is required to submit a crop plan which summarizes the farms’ fruit, vegetable, and/or honey production, and sign a Letter of Agreement with DoAg agreeing to abide by all rules and regulations of the FMNP.

Once a farm has been approved to participate in the FMNP program by DoAg the farm will be issued a FMNP certification number, a farm-specific endorsement stamp which enables FMNP checks to be deposited, and a FMNP certified farmer poster for display at all authorized markets.

After the initial certification, farmers are required to be recertified every three years. For recertification farmers must attend a group meeting to review the FMNP rules and regulations, sign a Letter of Agreement, and submit a crop plan.

Any farmer accepted and certified mid-certification cycle will be certified for the remainder of the current three-year cycle.

In the future, recertification will be required by certified farmers in 2021, 2024, and 2027.

DoAg collaborates with the Connecticut Department of Public Health, 23 local WIC offices, and over 200 senior coordinating agencies for implementation of the two FMNPs.

Local WIC offices receive FMNP vouchers form DoAg and distribute the WIC FMNP checks to all eligible recipients during the months of July, August and September.

The SFMNP is similar in most respects to the WIC FMNP. Seniors who are at least 60 years of age with an annual income that does not exceed 185% of the poverty guidelines and are enrolled in other means testing programs are eligible to participate. Disabled individuals under the age of 60 are also eligible if they live in housing where congregate nutrition services are offered. Connecticut SFMNP is funded through the USDA-FNS and the State of Connecticut.

Each eligible senior receives six $3 checks, per market season, which can be redeemed at authorized Connecticut farmers’ markets.

The checks are issued to elderly housing facilities, municipal social services, and elderly service nonprofits who have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with DoAg. 

Checks are not distributed to individuals by DoAg. To find the most current list of SFMNP check distribution sites please go to www.CTGrown.gov/FMNP.

In 2018 DoAg is administering a SFMNP doubling program at 36 Connecticut farmers’ markets. The SFMNP doubling program is known as the Senior Produce and Honey Extra Redemption Endorsement (SPHERE) program.

Funding for the SPHERE program comes through the reallocation of funds originally scheduled for the 2017 SFMNP which was unavailable during the 2017 farmers’ market season.

A list of farmers’ markets that accept FMNP checks, and markets that offer the SPHERE SFMNP check doubling program is available on the DoAg website at www.ct.gov/doag.