Food assistance program Health Options provided food vouchers to participants at Adams County Farmer Market (ACFM) Saturday.
Healthy Options is part of the Adams County Food Policy Council, a task force of Healthy Adams County focusing on eliminating food insecurity around the county by providing access to fresh, local products, according to program coordinator Carly Auchey.
The program is designed for people who are in the “SNAP gap,” who don’t meet income requirements or other reasons to qualify for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program food assistance, Auchey said.
Healthy Options provides $50 in vouchers for four months in the summer for ACFM purchases as well as $50 for four months in the winter for produce at Kennie’s Market, according to Auchey.
“The program is a great opportunity for families to access local produce from the county,” community leader Omar Macazar said in Spanish.
The vouchers help eliminate the stigma often associated with food assistance, according to Auchey.
“Especially at the market, there are all sorts of vouchers used. Families just feel like they are shopping, which is how it should be,” she said.
Participation has risen steadily over the years since the pilot program began assisting the Adams County community in 2011, according to Auchey.
Healthy Options began with 25 participants and has risen to 145 families this year as well as maintains a steady wait-list, she said.
“It really skyrocketed during the pandemic,” Auchey said.
Healthy Options is a win-win partnership for market vendors and the community alike, according to Reza Djalal, ACFM manager.
“It addresses food insecurity and assists families left behind. It also puts money in the pocket of local farmers and small businesses. It is an excellent model of a food assistance program,” he said.
As a program coordinator, Auchey receives participant referrals from various sources and organizations including WellSpan Health, Casa de la Cultura, South Central Community Action Programs (SCCAP), Adams County Head Start, and word of mouth, she said.
Healthy Options requires no social security number or proof of income, only basic information such as address and the number of people in the home, Auchey said.
“It’s simple to qualify, it’s about making it accessible for people who often get left out of benefits,” she said.
More information about Healthy Options can be found at https://www.adamsfoodpolicy.org/ as well as the various programs and activities run by Healthy Adams County at http://www.healthyadamscounty.org/.