Lottery system set up for senior food program

EVERETT — A program that provides low-income seniors with $40 checks to spend at farmers markets is so popular that this year’s recipients will be picked by a lottery system.

The good news is that Senior Services of Snohomish County has funding to provide checks to about 1,708 seniors this summer. That’s about 250 more people than the number helped by the program last year, said Martha Peppones, nutrition and health services director for Senior Services of Snohomish County.

In this and previous market seasons, the downside is that demand is higher than available funding. Not everyone qualified due to modest income will get the money. The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program is paid for by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and money the Legislature appropriates annually from the state general fund.

Random selection is being tried this year because previously some older people waited in long lines at farmers markets or at the Senior Services office for the checks — and were sometimes frustrated that they didn’t get them, Peppones said. In the past, batches of checks were given out at area markets on different designated days.

“We felt really badly. We’ve had people waiting in line three hours,” she said.

The checks are to be used to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets or farm stands. New to the program this year is the Edmonds Farmers Market, Peppones said. A list of other qualified sites will be mailed with the checks.

Applications are available at area senior centers, the Senior Services of Snohomish County office in Everett, or online. Senior Services is closed today for Memorial Day. Completed applications must be returned to Senior Services of Snohomish County by June 13; checks will be mailed to those chosen by July 12. Checks may be used through the end of October.

Seniors whose incomes are 185 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible to apply. That’s a monthly income of $1,799 for a single person, $2,425 for a couple, and $626 more per person if others are in the household, she said.

Senior Services of Snohomish County, the nonprofit that runs the farmers market program locally, also operates Meals on Wheels, affordable rental housing, Dial-A-Ride Transportation (DART), counseling and other social services.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

How to apply

for food aid

Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program applications, for qualified low-income seniors, are available at area senior centers, at Senior Services of Snohomish County, 11627 Airport Road, Suite B, Everett, or online at: www.sssc.org/index

Applications must be postmarked by June 13. Mail to: Nutrition Program/SFMNP, 11627 Airport Road, Suite B, Everett WA 98204. Because of the limited number of checks available, recipients will be randomly selected. Checks will be mailed by July 12 to those chosen. Information: 425-347-1229.

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