Lifestyle, News

Healthy eating a SNAP for Medford seniors

By Marianne Salza

Judith Marcella and John Elliott at the “Produce in a SNAP for Seniors” at the Medford Housing Authority. (Marianne Salza)

 

MEDFORD — For $5, low-income seniors can fill their reusable bags with fresh lettuce, green peppers, scallions, and apples from enormous baskets.

The produce, available on Tuesdays at the Medford Housing Authority’s first floor lounge, is a program of the Medford Farmers Market and the city.

Dubbed “Produce in a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) for Seniors,” the program provides seniors with quality produce and a place where elders can gather and exchange cooking ideas.

“We really enjoy doing this program, and we know that seniors like it too,” said Syrah McGivern, project coordinator at the city’s Board of Health. “We have a high population of seniors in Medford, and we have a lot of people struggling with food security.”

The program, which ends on Tuesday, Oct. 31, has provided nearly three dozen seniors with fruits and vegetables this summer.

“It’s a social event for them,” said Caitlin Musto, manager, Medford Farmers Market. “They see their friends and enjoy cooking demonstrations. They get a taste of something and go home with recipes.”

This is Musto’s first year participating in “Produce in a SNAP for Seniors.” She loves seeing familiar faces of those who also attend the Thursday Medford Farmers Markets at the Condon Shell, she said.

“A lot of seniors request recipes that help break down fruits and vegetables because they could have digestive or health issues,” she said, while coring apples before stuffing them with brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and black pepper, and softening them in the oven. “I show them something different and easy they can do. It’s great because you feel like part of the community.”

The project began in 2014 with a grant from the Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging, and was funded this year by the city of Medford, and in partnership with the Medford Farmers Market. Fruits and vegetables are provided by the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, a school that supports immigrant farmers.

“We know that we are helping them improve their health with this program,” said McGivern. “We think it’s valuable and we’d like to expand it to more seniors.”

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