Low-income seniors offered $40 for farmers markets

EVERETT — A popular food assistance program resumes Sunday, the first time this season that qualified seniors will get $40 checks to spend at farmers markets.

This summer’s program will kick off from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Everett Farmers Market on the waterfront, where the first batch of checks will be given out.

Checks that can be spent on fresh fruits, vegetables and other market foods will be available on other dates, through July 11, at sites that include Stocker Farms in Snohomish, Bakerview Apartments in Everett, the Mukilteo Farmers Market and the Mukilteo office of Senior Services of Snohomish County.

“Last year, we served 1,527 people,” said Martha Peppones, nutrition program director for Senior Services of Snohomish County, the agency overseeing the annual program.

“We actually have the highest or second highest redemption rate in the state,” she said. “That tells me our folks here really need the program. They like it, coming to the market to pick up the checks. They’re spending them.”

The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program is paid for by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and money appropriated by the Legislature each year from the state’s general fund.

To qualify, adults must live in Snohomish County and be 60 or older (55 and older if American Indian) with incomes below 185 percent of the federal poverty level, $1,722 per month for one person. The checks can be spent only at qualified markets in Snohomish, Skagit and north King counties.

Photo identification is the only documentation needed. “Income is by self-declaration. We trust that people will be honest. And our experience is that people are,” Peppones said. “There are a lot of folks out there who fall into that income category.”

Gary Purves, co-owner of Everett Farmers Market, said checks will be distributed Sunday at a table on the boardwalk north of Lombardi’s restaurant. “We anticipate some long lines,” said Purves, who took over management of the market this year with Karen Erickson.

Checks are given out on a first-come, first-served basis. “Demand has exceeded supply, but last year not by much,” Peppones said. She added that there will be about 20 fewer checks available this year than in 2011. “I think we’ve got 1,507 this year. There are lines, but typically it’s because people show up early,” she said.

A certain number of checks are allocated for each site, depending on previous demand. The program started about seven years ago, Peppones said.

“When it first started, we got bulk food and delivered it to our Meals on Wheels clients,” she said. Senior Services also provided transportation in the past, but doesn’t have funding for that now.

“What worked best was to try to bring people to the market to pick up their checks. They’re already there and can spend it right then. Particularly if they need a caregiver, they can get the check and the food in one trip,” Peppones said.

A way to provide fresh-picked produce to seniors, the program is also a boost for market merchants.

“Definitely, it’s about $60,000 worth of vouchers, plus any additional money the seniors might spend,” Peppones said. “Another nice thing markets are doing, at least the Everett market is, they’re starting to accept EBT cards,” she said, referring to cards for the state’s food-stamp benefits program.

Although food banks do have some fresh items, Peppones said markets have a fresher and larger selection.

“It’s a win-win. We’re certainly happy,” said Purves, the market co-owner.

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

Seniors to get checks

Checks worth $40 for use at many area farmers markets will be distributed, on a first-come first-served basis, to qualified older adults through the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. You must be a Snohomish County resident 60 or older (55 and older if American Indian). Photo ID required. Income must be below 185 percent of federal poverty level: $1,722 monthly for one person; $2,333 monthly for two; add $611 per person for larger households. Checks available at:

•Everett Farmers Market: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday and July 8, Marina Village off West Marine View Drive.

Senior Services of Snohomish County: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 8225 44th Ave. W., Suite O, Mukilteo.

Bakerview Apartments: 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday, 1401 Poplar St., Everett.

Stocker Farms: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 11, 10622 Airport Way, Snohomish.

Mukilteo Farmers Market: 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. July 11, Lighthouse Park, 609 Front St.

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