Pa. Produce Month spotlights economic, social benefits of local food

August 2017 is Pennsylvania Produce Month. I was proud to vote for the resolution recognizing the commonwealth’s vegetable growers, who continue to serve as national leaders in the production and processing of fruits and vegetables that feed families across the country.

Family farms across the state produce nearly 300,000 tons of vegetables a year from approximately 50,000 acres. Late summer is a great time to find tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, cabbage and more.

More than 4,300 family farms are currently operating in Pennsylvania. With produce ranging from the mushrooms grown in Chester County to the potatoes in Erie and Potter counties, Pennsylvania growers offer a variety of locally grown food items.

I hope you will consider visiting a farmers’ market in our region. When you buy local, fresh produce, you’re fueling our local economy and keeping our farmers in business. I encourage you to check out Chester Market each year July to October from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month. It’s located at 3117 W. Ninth St., behind the Fare and Square parking lot.

The Commonwealth has several programs in place to make sure as many residents as possible have access to fresh produce grown in their communities, regardless of income. The Farmers Market Nutrition Program provides qualified participants with vouchers to purchase Pennsylvania-grown produce at more than 1,130 farmers' markets and farm stands. More than 160,000 participants redeemed over $1.3 million in vouchers in 2015 alone.

Another program to ensure Pennsylvanians have access to fresh produce is the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. SFNP provides low-income seniors assistance in purchasing Pennsylvania-grown fruits and vegetables using a combination of state and federal dollars. In 2015, SFNP distributed more than $3 million in vouchers to help up to 183,000 seniors statewide.

Please contact my office for help with either of these programs.