Morris County's Farm-to-Table Initiative Flourishes, Delivering Fresh Produce to Seniors


Third-Year Collaboration between Morris County Nutrition Program and Ort Farms Reinforces Commitment to Senior Nutrition

MORRIS COUNTY, NJ - In an ongoing partnership between the Morris County Nutrition Program and Ort Farms, senior citizens across the county continue to benefit from the Summer Farm-to-Table pilot program, now in its third year.

The program offers a lifeline to residents of Butler Senior Housing and Jefferson Chase, enabling them to place orders for prepackaged produce sourced directly from Ort Farms, a Long Valley-based operation. Nutrition Program staff deliver these packages, which vary seasonally, offering a mix of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Funding for the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP), which makes this initiative possible, comes from federal sources. It provides income-eligible seniors with vouchers that can be redeemed for fresh produce and other products like honey and herbs from participating farmers' markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture initiatives.

“Historically, the program (SFMNP) has been running for many years, but the farm-to-table pilot program was first launched in 2021 in response to the pandemic’s impact on seniors’ ability to leave their residences. Morris County partnered with Ort Farms in 2021 where the vouchers were still administered, and seniors were given the option to have the county coordinate delivery. The program proved successful and has continued, with a few changes to this year’s program,” said Christine Hellyer, director of the Morris County Division on Aging, Disabilities and Community Programming.

Modifications in 2023 include digitizing the voucher process with QR-coded plastic cards on lanyards, reducing the risk of voucher loss. Furthermore, the distribution amount per person in a household was increased from $30 to $50, allowing for $25 worth of produce to be delivered on two separate occasions.

“We’ve also been distributing incentive bags to housing units with large populations of seniors, so housing unit coordinators can have a better idea of what seniors would receive. In any population of seniors, there are a proportion who are homebound. It’s important to have this outreach and let them know what they might be missing out on,” stated Hellyer.

This season will witness 72 bags of produce delivered to senior residents. Deliveries kicked off on July 18 and 19, bringing joy to seniors with bags filled with seasonal produce such as blueberries, peaches, and sweet corn. A second delivery is planned for September.

Incentives for program participation this year included providing pre-registered seniors with an indoor sprout blossom kit containing mixed herbs that can easily be grown indoors.

“Seniors have more flexibility to travel again and mobile market food pantries are popping up in different places, but a need is still there—and we’ll keep delivering until that need is met!” stated Nutrition Program Director Rhea Young, who personally delivers the bags with support from a community service worker and two interns.

To learn more about the Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program or to check eligibility, interested parties can visit the official Morris County website.

Ort Farms, now in its sixth generation, is a 400-acre farm managed by three generations of the Ort family, offering fresh produce year-round and a host of recreational activities for visitors.

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