Thousands of pounds of fresh local produce went directly to 376 seniors in Cottonwood this fall thanks to the Arizona Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program and a handful of organizations working in unison. The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) is a federal program that works to improve the health of low-income seniors by providing access to locally grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Eligible seniors receive a coupon booklet totaling $50 to spend at participating farmers markets.
This fall, Pinnacle Prevention, the nonprofit coordinator of the SFMNP in Arizona, teamed up with Yavapai County SNAP-Ed, Manzanita Outreach, and several farmers from the Prescott Farmers Market to bring locally grown produce directly to seniors in the Verde Valley.
This partnership was spurred into action with leftover SFMNP funds in order to serve fixed-income seniors in Cottonwood. Many local advocates in Yavapai County stepped right up and were willing to take on some extra responsibility to bring hyper locally-grown produce to seniors participating in the senior food box programs distributed by Mananita Outreach. These key advocates include Rebecca Serratos from the Yavapai County Cooperative Extension Office, Marie Higgins and Tessa Martinez from Prescott Farmers Market, Ben Burke from Manzanita Outreach, and of course Prescott, Chino Valley and Paulden-area farmers.
Aguiar Farms, Hernandez Farms, SuperNatural Sprouts, and Reyes Farms collectively produced over $18,000 worth of produce and were paid directly and in full through SFMNP funds via Pinnacle Prevention. Their fresh local produce was added to the existing food boxes which were coordinated and distributed by Manzanita Outreach. Melissa Monahan, owner of SuperNatural Sprouts said, “I am honored to be part of this great food-sharing opportunity. Not only was it a boost for my business, but especially warmed my heart knowing these boxes were going to seniors.”
Senior food boxes through SFMNP are special for a few reasons, including the convenience and ease it provides the recipients. They are purposefully integrated into seniors’ pre-existing food pick-up routines. In order for this to happen, there is so much work that takes a team effort behind the scenes including transporting, packing, securing materials, and other logistics. It was a true community collaboration that came together in Yavapai County to bring this to fruition. Aguiar Farms said, “We are proud to grow food for people all over the state and are always grateful to the numerous agencies who help coordinate getting our produce and herbs to people who need them.”
Ultimately, a total of 376 Verde Valley seniors each benefited from $50 worth of fresh fruits and vegetables, either delivered through the Manzanita Outreach home delivery program, or provided alongside seniors picking up their monthly commodities box at the pantry. Contents of the mixed produce bags for the seniors included arugula, kale, beets, tomatoes, radishes, turnips, microgreens, fresh herbs, and more. Ben Burke of Manzanita Outreach emphasized how special it was for seniors to receive fresh greens. He shared that at the food pantry, heartier vegetables are easier to come by, but to give out fresh, high-quality greens grown in Yavapai County was a true and unexpected treat.