NEW BRITAIN - With farmers market season in full swing, agricultural businesses are going to take a hit alongside senior citizens.
The Seniors’ Farmers Market Nutrition Program was cut due to the lack of a state budget by July 1.
The program provides supplemental food vouchers for low-income seniors. People 60 or older with incomes that do not exceed 185 percent of poverty guidelines are eligible.
Each recipient receives six $3 checks which can be redeemed at authorized markets throughout Connecticut for fruits, vegetables, fresh cut herbs and honey, according to the Department of Agriculture’s website.
“The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program brought in hundreds of dollars last year to local farmers who sell product in New Britain,” said Joey Listro, executive director of New Britain Roots.
New Britain Roots is a non-profit organization dedicated to making healthy food accessible and affordable to low-income residents. They partner up with Urth Farms to bring produce to the farmers market in the city.
Listro said now that the program has been eliminated, farmers will no longer be getting the aid from the state and seniors are put at a disadvantage because they have fewer options to access locally sourced products.
Farmers were told to immediately stop accepting the checks because they would not be compensated for the transaction.
This could not come at a worse time for New Britain’s senior residents as the farmers’ market in Central Park just opened this week, and the CTfastrak Farm Stand at the downtown station will begin Monday.
Listro said New Britain Roots already had to turn away a handful of senior residents at Wednesday’s farmers market. He said they received notice of the program’s cut at the last minute, and therefore many of the seniors had a hard time knowing which checks were valid and which were not.
Last year, Roots was able to redeem $528 in vouchers for the program, according to Listro.
“The state not having a budget is affecting all sorts of people, but [those] most vulnerable are being hit the hardest,” Listro said.
State Rep. Terry Gerratana, D-New Britain, said about 36,000 seniors in the state will be affected by this, but that to her knowledge the program is suspended, not eliminated.
The affected checks are those in the “2 million series,” numbered 2000001 through 2200000.
Checks in the “3 million series” numbered 3000001 through 3006000, however, can still be accepted because it is covered by the federal SFMNP, which Listro said makes it more difficult for farmers because both checks look the same except one is funded through the state and the other is through the federal government.
Seniors should still hold on to their checks in case they are able to be deposited in the future.
“Nothing is permanent until we complete a budget, everything [that’s been cut] is temporary,” state Rep. Rick Lopes, D-New Britain said.
Angie DeRosa can be reached at 860-801-5063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.