​​AARP Foundation to Support Affordable Access to Healthy Food


Rutherford County, TN, Farmers' Market

​The Rutherford County Farmers' Market will open for the 2015 season on May 8 at 7 a.m. CDT.  Photo courtesy UTIA.

 

MURFREESBORO, TENN.  – The Rutherford County Farmers’ Market (RCFM), operated by UT/TSU Extension in Rutherford County, is one of a select number of markets that will receive funding from the United States Department of Agriculture through its Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant program for the next four years, starting in September 2015.

The USDA awarded AARP Foundation a grant of $3.3 million, with an additional $1 million coming from UnitedHealthcare, to implement a multi-year $6.6 million incentive program in Tennessee and Mississippi to increase the purchase and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients using EBT (electronic benefit transfer) payments. The goal of this program is to increase the purchase and consumption of fruits and vegetables and to improve nutrition and health outcomes for low-income consumers.

“We are thrilled to be a part of this tremendous opportunity to expand the availability of fresh produce in Rutherford County while also connecting more customers with our local farm producers,” said Extension Agent and RCFM Coordinator Janie Becker. “This grant will increase the shopping power of SNAP households by providing incentives for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables in 31 Tennessee farmers markets, including ours right here in Rutherford County.”

Since 2012, the RCFM has provided an opportunity for those individuals living with limited or fixed incomes to shop at the market. Over $20,000 in EBT benefits have been used to shop directly from local farm producers at the RCFM since the market’s program began. This has served both to invest these funds in our local economy and also to make consumption of local, fresh foods an option for everyone in the community.

“We are very pleased to receive this generous grant from USDA that underscores AARP Foundation’s important work to ensure all Americans can afford nutritious food and lead productive, healthful lives,” said AARP Foundation President Lisa Marsh Ryerson.  “I would also like to thank our friends at UnitedHealthcare, Kroger Co., the Tennessee and Mississippi Departments of Human Services and Departments of Agriculture for their support, because collaboration of this magnitude is crucial in finding a solution to end senior hunger.”

Encouraging more nutritious diets is a focus in the health care industry, which recognizes better nutrition as a disease prevention and health promotion measure. AARP Foundation agrees with this view and believes making fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible is particularly important for older adults and individuals living with limited or fixed incomes.

“Food insecurity is an issue that affects 45 million people in the United States, so UnitedHealthcare is grateful for the opportunity to work with AARP Foundation and support programs that give people access to healthy and affordable food,” said Austin Pittman, CEO of UnitedHealthcare’s Medicaid business.

Beginning in September 2015, area SNAP recipients will be able to take advantage of this incentive program at the Rutherford County Farmers Market along with a handful of other Tennessee farmers’ markets and several Kroger stores in Mississippi and Tennessee. Through each year of the grant funding, more Tennessee markets will be entered in to the incentive program.

Becker says, “Our goal, beyond this generous grant, is to make this sustainable by seeking out local and regional partners that can help sponsor this program. Researchers from Vanderbilt and Tennessee State University will be looking at the effects this program may have on the nutrition of SNAP recipients and their overall wellness. By creating incentives, marketing, and collecting data on a statewide level, we hope to show the tremendous values of encouraging healthy food decisions and increasing produce availability.”

AARP Foundation is contracting with Wholesome Wave, a non-profit organization with a track record of establishing incentive programs, to provide training and technical assistance to farmers markets and to assist with implementation of the outreach plan.

The Rutherford County Farmers Market is located in the Lane Agri-Park Community Center at 315 John R. Rice Blvd. in Murfreesboro. Opening Day for the RCFM is Friday, May 8, and the market will be open from 7a.m. to 12 noon.  Regular market hours after that are each Tuesday and Friday from 7a.m. to 12 noon through the month of October.

The UT Institute of Agriculture provides instruction, research and outreach through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch, including its system of 10 research and education centers, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.

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Contact:

Janie J. Becker, RC Farmers' Market Coordinator, 615-898-7710, jbecker8@utk.edu