(Sven Scheuermeier / Unsplash)

Summer days seem made for ice cream, but the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is helping area seniors to eat healthy in the heat by making it cheaper to buy fresh produce.

Catholic Housing and Community Services (CHCS) will distribute nearly 3,000 Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) produce vouchers to income-eligible seniors throughout Philadelphia.

The outreach is part of CHCS’s continuum of care for area seniors, which includes housing options, activity centers, older adult care management, in-home support programs, an elder care helpline and social clubs.

The SFMNP vouchers provide seniors with access to locally grown fruits and vegetables through approved farmers’ markets, roadside stands and community-supported agriculture programs in the city and the surrounding area.

Clients who access CHCS’ senior centers, as well as older adults from the wider community, will have the opportunity to receive vouchers totaling $20 in value. CHCS’ in-home support program will also distribute vouchers to eligible seniors in South Philadelphia who are homebound.

The program is a practical, effective way to “address food insecurity and lack of nutrition for seniors,” said Karen Becker, Karen Becker, CHCS’s director of in-home support and senior centers

Becker also noted that the vouchers are a starting point for connecting seniors to the range of resources offered by CHCS.

“For many, it marks the first time they visit one of our senior centers,” she said. “We welcome the opportunity to introduce them to all the programs and services available.”

At present, the SFMNP counts more than 1,150 participating farmers at 828 farm stands and 202 farmers’ markets in Pennsylvania, according to program officials.

The federally funded SFMNP program is operated nationally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In Pennsylvania, the program is administered by the state’s department of agriculture.

To qualify, seniors must be age 60 or older and meet income eligibility guidelines, which are based on 185% of the federal poverty income criteria.

Since they can only be used for fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Pennsylvania, the vouchers don’t cover citrus or tropical fruits, or processed foods such as jam, honey, nuts, cider and baked goods.

Those interested in receiving vouchers can call the CHCS Senior Helpline at 1-888-679-7669 for more information.

A list of participating farm markets and farm stands can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s website.