Senior Fruit & Vegetable Voucher Program: Racine Kenosha Community Action Agency’s Local Approach to Increase Access for Low Income Seniors
Shared by Sharon Schulz, RKCAA CEO
Racine Kenosha Community Action Agency is involved in several community food security efforts. As the provider of Women, Infants and Children (WIC) services for Kenosha County, RKCAA was looking at solutions to increase the redemption rates for the WIC Farmer Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) checks that WIC families receive every season. In 2010, RKCAA established an onsite farm stand with Green Acres Farms which enabled clients to have the option of redeeming their FMNP checks when they came to the office to pick up their checks and attend nutrition activities.
Knowing that senior hunger is a problem in Kenosha and wanting to find a way to increase opportunities for seniors to access fresh produce, RKCAA explored possible solutions. Kenosha County is not a recipient of the federal Senior Farmer Market Nutrition Program, and there are no funds to expand the program to our community. Additionally, there are no farmer markets in Kenosha County that accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Therefore, in 2013 RKCAA wrote a grant and received funding to pilot a project where 55 seniors would receive $20 in of vouchers to redeem at our on-site farm stand.
Trinity Lutheran Church, one of our Commodity Supplemental Food Program sites (CSFP), partnered with us to distribute the vouchers to seniors participating at their location. Feedback was positive and 78% of the vouchers were redeemed. In 2014 increased funding allowed us to assist 146 seniors. Partnerships grew to include Kenosha County Aging & Disabilities Resources and Kenosha Family & Aging Services. This small pilot project in 2013 resulted in creating a community-based program that provides access to affordable and healthy food for low income seniors. The success of the project is a result of the commitment and collaboration of community partners.
Our goal in 2015 is to provide fruit and vegetable vouchers to 300 low income seniors, with an overall redemption rate of 90%. Two important next steps include expanding and strengthening our partnerships and increasing our understanding of the needs of seniors. This will allow us to be active in looking for solutions to reduce barriers seniors may experience when redeeming the vouchers.
With the completion of a lift that is being installed, RKCAA is excited about additional services that will be available for senior citizens. Our Teaching Kitchen is located on the 2nd floor, which hindered access for individuals with mobility or physical limitations making step climbing difficult or prohibited. Cooking classes, assistance with cutting and/or pre-packaging produce to make it easier to consume at home and multigenerational opportunities between WIC families and senior citizens will be available. This could include assisting young children in kitchen activities and sharing their experiences and expertise with WIC mothers and fathers. Their expertise on food budgeting, meal planning when their children were young and sharing favorite recipes and tips would benefit young families and provide socialization opportunities for seniors.
For more information, contact Sharon Schulz, RKCAA CEO, at 262-637-8377 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.