Senior Farmers Markets: Opening Access to Precious Produce

It’s always been a fair measure of a community to see how we care for the most vulnerable among us. Seniors all face a decline in some aspect of their independence as years go by.

For many seniors in San Luis Obispo County, the advance of years can lead to a growing sense of isolation, especially among the home-bound.

Here’s where programs like the Food Bank Coalitions’s Senior Farmer’s Markets (SFM) can help create community within senior housing.

One goal of SFMs is to make available the fruits and vegetables that are recommended for keeping us healthy as we age. And for seniors living on a fixed income, eating healthy can present a financial hardship as they choose between covering basic needs like housing and healthier food which often costs more.

At eight sites around the county, SFM’s connect low-income seniors with fresh fruits and vegetables in senior housing complexes.

A variety of fresh produce is delivered each month to a community room accessible to residents. Boxes of produce are arranged “farmer’s market style” and seniors are invited to select the quantity and type of produce they need.

The feedback has been very positive in both terms of nutrition and community building. At Ocean View Manor in Morro Bay, Patty said of the SFMs, “It’s a double blessing because it’s conveniently located on our site. It helps with my food budget and opens up our community.”

Linda also said, “Any little bit helps! Fruits and vegetables in the store are so expensive.”

In addition to providing access to fresh produce, the SFMs have had a positive social impact. The site manager at Ocean View told us, “The social impact is also very important. The market gets some residents out of their apartments who don’t often come out.”

Senior Farmers Markets bring food directly to housing complexes and eliminate the need for transportation which can be a barrier to food access for seniors. These markets help ensure that vulnerable seniors have an adequate supply of fresh produce while providing participants with choices about which produce they would like to take home.

And just maybe, when we judge the care of our most vulnerable neighbors, we’ll take a little satisfaction from the work we do with seniors to provide access to healthy eating choices.

– By Kevin Drabinski, Chief Executive Officer