State Agriculture Secretary Patty Judge says a program that helps low-income Iowans buy fresh fruit and vegetables continues to grow in popularity. Judge says Iowans in the Seniors Nutrition Program and the Women Infant and Child Nutrition Program, or WIC (wick) are given coupons they can redeem at Farmer’s Markets during the summer. She says over 20-thousand seniors and 50-thousand in the WIC program participated in the program in 2003. Judge says over 800 farmers participated in the program. She says they do require the farmers that’re participating to be trained to handle the coupons, so they know the coupons have to be used for fresh fruit and vegetables. Judge says the federal program helps both sides in the transaction. She says it really gives them the opportunity to incorporate fresh fruit and vegetables into diets where that may not necessarily be the food choice without the program — which she says will lead to a healthier lifestyle. She says it also increases the market opportunities for a number of Iowa farmers who work with the farmer’s markets. Judge says those who start using the fresh fruit and vegetables get hooked on them, and there are many who prefer to go back to a time when everything didn’t come out of a can. She says she thinks that’s why the program is so popular with seniors, as a lot of them used to cook with a lot of fresh fruit and produce. Judge says over 433-thousand dollars worth of coupons were redeemed in 2003. The coupons cannot be used to buy fruits and vegetables in supermarkets.
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