Bill Stivers, the Sandoval County site supervisor for Meadowlark Senior Center, wheels a few more boxes of produce from a truck Wednesday afternoon at MSC.
Photo Gary Herron / Observer

When senior citizens are no longer able to eat meals at senior centers because of COVID-19, they’re benefiting from a new state initiative, “The New Mexico Grown Fruits and Vegetables for Senior Meals Pilot Program.”

As part of the program, locally grown fruits and vegetables were delivered to Meadowlark Senior Center last Wednesday, then prepped and disbursed Friday.

Through this new program from the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department (ALTSD), senior citizens who generally participate in congregate and home-delivered meals at the 15 senior centers in Sandoval, Socorro and San Juan counties have been receiving the bounties of New Mexico-grown produce, according to a news release.

The program is a partnership between the state, the New Mexico nonprofit Farm to Table, the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association, the three county senior services departments, Agricultura Cooperative Network and New Mexico farmers. The 2019 state legislature approved $50,000 for the program.

Within seven months, and despite the coronavirus, the three counties were able to provide $50,000 of New Mexico-grown fruits and vegetables through their senior meal programs. Meals prepared by the senior services included lettuce from Silverleaf Farm and apples from Wagner Farms, both in Corrales.

“The seniors love the program and can’t get enough of the beautiful lettuces and tomatoes,” said Donald Ravizza, Sandoval County Senior Services Food and Nutrition manager.

According to the release, the program provides better meals to senior citizens, and expands business opportunities for farmers.