The following story was originally published on June 28.
By JAMES BELL
A new program in Ellis County seeks to provide seniors improved access to fresh produce while fostering local producers that sell at farmer's markets.
After being offered in eastern Kansas towns, the Kansas Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program is now available to Ellis County low-income residents over 60 years of age.
The program is coordinated through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and administered in Ellis County by the Cottonwood Extension District, 601 Main.
"This year they wanted to branch out and find a larger farmers market they could try it in," said Cottonwood Extension District agent Berny Unruh.
Funding for the program is provided by a federal grant.
"The idea is not only to provide seniors with fruit and vegetables but to promote or support our local farmers," Unruh said.
Unruh said with the price of fresh fruit and vegetables, many seniors living with tight incomes, may be hesitant to purchase the higher cost produce over lower-cost food options.
But she said doing can be detrimental.
"They will live a lot longer if they have fresh fruits and vegetables, in their diet," Unruh said.
Those health concerns brought on by a lack of proper nutrition she said can sneak up on seniors and cause a variety of health problems.
"Oftentimes, when those things do start happening, whether it is diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol, that is not something that they notice right away, and they don't get it checked, and then their health can decline very quickly," Unruh said.
The signup process is straightforward and can be done quickly in the Cottonwood Extension District office.
"It's two pages," Unruh said. "And we will ask those very simple questions about age and income."
Those seniors who qualify will be given a booklet with seven $5 checks that can then be used at authorized farmers' market vendors.
Those vendors will have signs indicating they are a part of the program.
Unruh said she is hopeful area seniors will take advantage of the program.
"They should not be afraid to come and know that there are things that they might be able to afford," she said.