Imagine having to choose between basic necessities. Pick up a prescription or put food on the table? Pay the power bill or purchase a bus pass?
These are impossible choices, yet the Food Research and Action Center estimates that more than 1 in 11 Americans 65 or older struggle with hunger and are forced to make these decisions every day.
According to Hunger Free Colorado, 18% of Colorado residents 55-64 years old and 13% of those 65+ face food insecurity. The Food Bank of Larimer County estimates that 8.4% of older residents are food insecure.
And while federal assistance programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) exist, most of these older adults don’t quality.
“This is what we call the SNAP gap,” explained Cheryl Noble, Market Days! for Older Adults program coordinator. “Despite being low income, many adults don’t meet the threshold to qualify for federal assistance. It’s a lose-lose: they make too much to receive SNAP benefits but not enough to afford quality, nutritious food.”
In Larimer County, CSU Extension, the Larimer County Farmers’ Market and Senior Access Points of Larimer County are teaming up to close the SNAP gap. In 2019, the collaborative launched Market Days! for Older Adults, a program aiming to address the growing problem of food insecurity in older adults in Larimer County.
Providing nutritious food for older adults in need
Market Days! provides older, low-income adults with free, fresh and nutritious produce, supporting healthy aging and reducing food insecurity in local communities including the rural Red Feather Lakes area.
Volunteers sign up to deliver bags of fresh produce to low-income adults in Larimer County. For many, the bags of vegetables can be life-changing.
“Many of our patients live in poverty. One 90-year-old woman living alone was eating cat food,” said Tricia Lipinski, Nurse Practitioner at St. Luke’s Medical Clinic. “Several started crying when we delivered their bag of fresh produce. Market Days! is greatly needed in our community.”
For many low-income older adults, the cost of fresh produce can be a barrier. More affordable food choices, such as dry and canned goods, are not the most nutritious options.
“Saturday morning a nice gentleman delivered a bag of joy to my home,” said Carol A., a Market Days! program participant. “I enjoyed a fresh salad for lunch and for dinner, fingerling potatoes with a tuna salad. All of it was so fresh and delicious with enough produce for several more days.”
Supporting local farmers
Produce is purchased directly from Larimer County farmers at the market, supporting local producers and the Northern Colorado farming community.
“Our market farmers are proud to be part of the Market Days! program,” said Emily Alligood, Larimer County Farmers’ Market manager. “The program invests resources back into local agriculture to support farmers, so it’s a positive outcome for our farmers and participants.”
“Knowing the produce was locally grown made it taste even better and reduced my guilt over my carbon footprint,” said Carol.
In 2020, with support from a COVID relief grant from the NextFifty Initiative and funding from the Larimer County Office on Aging, the program generated an additional $25,000 in revenue for participating farmers.
In addition to produce from market farmers, some produce is donated by community partners. This year Market Days! received a donation from the Colorado Dry Bean Committee to provide Colorado-grown beans for participants. Each week, volunteers pack up to 60 bags of Colorado-grown produce at the farmers’ market and deliver the bags directly to residents in need.
A community-wide effort to support healthy aging
Market Days! identifies participants through community partners working directly with older adults in Larimer County.
This coalition of partners, including the Larimer County Office on Aging, Housing Catalyst, Volunteers of America (Meals on Wheels), A Little Help, Grand Family Coalition and Neighbor to Neighbor, provides a suite of services to support healthy aging in Larimer County.
In addition to fresh produce, bags also include recipes and tips on how to cook or preserve the produce provided. Senior Access Points has also developed information sheets on aging-related resources available in the community for medical and personal assistance that are included in produce bags to further support the needs of Market Days! participants.
Market Days! by the numbers
- 8,000+ older adults are considered food insecure in Larimer County.
- 1,161 bags of produce distributed (2020).
- 269 individuals served in Larimer County (2020).
- $25,390 in additional revenue generated for local farmers (2020).
- 73 volunteers worked 413 volunteer hours (2020).
Join the movement
In 2020, 269 individuals received bags during the market season (a total of 1,161 bags). With increasing levels of food insecurity across the state, the number of older adults in need is expected to grow as well.
You can make a difference! For just $15, you can buy a bag of farm-fresh local produce for an older adult in need. Your donation helps alleviate the hard decision between paying bills or buying food, encourages healthy aging, and connects local farmers to the greater community while supporting the local economy.