Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., urged qualifying senior citizens ages 60 and older to go to their area Council on Aging location and apply for coupons that can be used to buy locally grown fresh fruits, vegetables and other food items from farmers markets and roadside stands.


Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., urged qualifying senior citizens ages 60 and older to go to their area Council on Aging location and apply for coupons that can be used to buy locally grown fresh fruits, vegetables and other food items from farmers markets and roadside stands.
In New Orleans, seniors should contact the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans. There are three dates and locations available in the current sign-up period. The dates in the Orleans Parish area are Monday, March 26, St. Mary of the Angels, 3501 N. Miro St.; Saturday, March 31, Daughters of Charity, 3201 S. Carrollton Ave.; Tuesday, April 3, The Church at New Orleans, 11700 Chef Menteur Hwy.
"We have $342,791 to distribute in the form of Senior Farmers Market coupons this year," Strain said. "Seniors should apply as soon as possible."
The coupons will be mailed at the end of May, Strain said.
 Strain said each qualifying senior will receive $24 in coupons that may be used to purchase only fresh produce, cut herbs and honey exclusively at participating farmers markets and roadside stands. The coupons cannot be redeemed in supermarkets, grocery stores or at non-participating farms.
Currently, 46 farmers markets and 93 roadside stands in the state accept the coupons.
Qualifying seniors will also receive a directory of participating farmers markets and roadside stands where the coupons may be spent.
Signage at the farmers markets and roadside stands that state the coupons are accepted should also be displayed at each location.
The coupons are for $4 each and no change can be given.
"This is a great way for qualifying seniors to supplement their diets with top quality produce grown by Louisiana farmers," Strain said. "Last year we distributed more than 16,000 coupons."
Strain said seniors must redeem the coupons before the Nov. 30, 2012 expiration date.
To be eligible for the program, a person must be at least 60 years old and earn less than 185 percent of the poverty level.
In a one-person household, the annual income level can be no more than $20,147. In a two-person household, annual income cannot exceed $27, 214.
The program is administered by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF).
Farmers who are interested in enrolling in the program must sign a Farmer Participation Agreement. For more information on how to become a participating farmer, call the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry at 985-345-9483.
For more information on the Farmers Market Nutrition Program or a list of participating farmers markets and roadside stands, visit www.LDAF.la.gov  (hyperlink: http://www.ldaf.state.la.us/portal/Offices/AgroConsumerServices/CommodityPromotionandResearch/FarmersMarketProgram/tabid/317/Default.aspx).