Catonsville senior center allotment for farmers market vouchers cut in half

The Catonsville Senior Center staff has fielded calls for weeks from people curious about when it will give out $30 vouchers redeemable at the Baltimore County farmers markets, said Grace McDowell, the assistant director of the center, on July 6.

The wait is almost over.

The Catonsville Senior Center will distribute a book of six $5 checks to qualifying county residents from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 18, according to a release from the Baltimore County Department of Aging.

County residents over age 60 whose income meets standards based on the Federal Poverty Guidelines can apply for the voucher, the release stated.

The income level is 85 percent higher than the poverty level determined by the 2011 Federal Poverty Guidelines, said Jeanne Gourley, the nutrition program manager for the Baltimore County Department of Aging.

"Those individuals who might not allow themselves to eat fresh fruits and vegetables because they're watching their food budget (get) the opportunity to have those fresh fruits and vegetables," Gourley said.

Gourley said customers using the vouchers do not need to use them all at once.

The vouchers will be handed out at all 20 county senior centers and unlike last year, residents will not need to prove their income levels.

"When they sign the line (of the application), they're certifying that they do meet the income guideline," Gourley said.

Income for a one-person household must be less than $20,147 to qualify for the voucher, which Gourley said is redeemable at any farmers market in the county.

A two-person household qualifies for the voucher with an income less than $27,214.

Last year, the county gave out 980 vouchers, Gourley said, and this year 908 vouchers will be divided among the senior centers.

"It's based on distribution in the past," Gourley said. "Some of them are much busier than others."

McDowell recalled that last year her center at 501 N. Rolling Road gave out about 60 vouchers.

This year, she said, the Catonsville Senior Center received only 30 and distributed them all.

"We have told people it's going to be first come, first serve," she said. "Once they have gone through the 30, that's about all we can do."

The vouchers, McDowell said, reinforce lessons of proper nutrition that the senior center tries to teach, such as eating fresh foods instead of more processed varieties.

"It's a very popular program," said McDowell, who noted that people attempting to get a voucher don't need to be members at the senior center. "It helps low-income seniors obtain fresh vegetables, not just canned vegetables with preservatives and things."

McDowell called the voucher program a "win-win" because it benefits people in need and local food producers.

Catonsville is home to two farmers markets, both of which run into November.

The Sunday Farmers Market takes place on 730 Frederick Road from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The Bloomsbury Community Center hosts the Wednesday Farmers Market at 106 Bloomsbury Ave. from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Arbutus Farmers Market sponsored by the Arbutus Business and Professional Association is also open weekly.

The Thursday market on 5200 Southwestern Boulevard, which debuted in June, is open 2-6 p.m. through October 27.

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