Johnson City Press: Grant-funded healthy-food incentive program available at Johnson County Farmers Market
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Grant-funded healthy-food incentive program available at Johnson County Farmers Market

Contributed To The Press • May 16, 2016 at 3:57 PM

MOUNTAIN CITY— AARP Foundation’s Fre$h Savings, a healthy-food incentive program funded by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture and co- sponsored by UnitedHealthcare, is now available at the Johnson County Farmers Market, located at the County Courthouse parking lot across from the US Post Office in downtown Mountain City.

Starting this Saturday, May 14, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries can spend up to $10 at participating farmers markets buying fresh fruits and vegetables with their SNAP card and receive the equivalent amount in Fre$h Savings tokens to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables that day and at future visits through the 2016 market season. The Johnson County Farmers Market is open from 9am until noon each Saturday through October 29th.

“AARP Foundation works hard to help create market-driven, sustainable strategies that address hunger and food insecurity for all Americans,” said Amy Kone, Fre$h Savings Program Manager in Tennessee. “This initiative is an opportunity to address the daily and often invisible problem of hunger that millions of our older neighbors face by connecting them to accessible healthy, fresh and affordable food.”

The Fre$h Savings program offers a “fresh” approach. It focuses on the quality of food, the importance of good nutrition and the affordability of fresh fruits and vegetables. The program educates and encourages SNAP recipients to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables with their SNAP benefits through a variety of incentives. Fre$h Savings is a win-win for local businesses and individuals’ health. The economy thrives through increased purchases of fruits and vegetables; people improve their diets and overall wellness.

“UnitedHealthcare is grateful for the opportunity to support AARP Foundation and encourage more people to improve their diets, and their health,” said Rita Johnson-Mills, CEO for UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Tennessee.

Tennessee is ranked among the lowest states in terms of people eating enough fruits and vegetables, and over 10 percent of Tennesseans ages 50 and over are food insecure, according to a study by AARP Foundation. The Johnson County Farmers Market is one of only 10 counties in Tennessee that was chosen to participate in the Fre$h Savings initiative program.

USDA, through its Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant program, awarded AARP Foundation a $3.3 million grant, with an additional $1 million coming from UnitedHealthcare, to implement this multiyear $6.6 million plan in Tennessee and Mississippi. The goal is to encourage low-income consumers to purchase and eat more fresh produce, and to improve their nutrition and overall health.

More than 10 million older adults in the United States are food insecure. AARP Foundation, in collaboration with these organizations, is creating solutions that help people 50 and older transform their lives and secure the essentials for their future. However, you do not have to be an AARP member to be a part of this program, nor is there any age range to participate.

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