MORRIS COUNTY — In a fruitful partnership, the Morris County Nutrition Program and Ort Farms have joined forces for a third consecutive year to ensure fresh produce reaches the senior residents of Butler Senior Housing and Jefferson Chase this summer. This farm-to-table initiative gives seniors the choice to order prepackaged fresh fruits and vegetables from the Long Valley-based farm, subsequently delivered by the Nutrition Program staff.
The federally-funded Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) plays a key role in making this possible, providing vouchers to eligible seniors. These vouchers can be exchanged for fresh produce from participating farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture.
The Morris County Division on Aging, Disabilities, and Community Programming’s Nutrition Program manages the initiative in Morris County. Christine Hellyer, the division’s director, explained that while the SFMNP has been operational for many years, the farm-to-table initiative began in 2021 due to the pandemic limiting seniors’ mobility. The pilot program, in partnership with Ort Farms, was successful and continues with some enhancements introduced in 2023.
One of the improvements made in 2023 was digitizing the voucher system with QR codes on plastic cards attached to lanyards for seniors to wear at participating farmer’s markets. This change mitigates the risk of voucher loss. Moreover, the amount distributed to each individual in a household has increased from $30 to $50, which corresponds to two deliveries of produce worth $25 each.
This year, a total of 72 bags of produce will be delivered to seniors across two housing units. The first set of deliveries, which took place on July 18 and 19, were welcomed by seniors, who received an assortment of seasonal fruits and vegetables. A second delivery is planned for September.
To further encourage participation, each senior who registered for a produce bag also received an indoor sprout blossom kit. The kit, containing mixed herbs that can grow in sunlight and stick to windows and walls, came as a bonus with the produce.
Director Rhea Young, who personally delivers the bags with the help of a community service worker and two interns, stated, “We’ll keep delivering until the need is met.” For more details and income guidelines for the SFMNP, interested parties can visit the Official Website of Morris County.
Ort Farms, a family-run business now in its sixth generation, operates a 400-acre farm and offers produce throughout the year. The farm also provides recreational activities for visitors.