An Iowa nutrition program for women, children, and seniors is expanding this year. The farmers-market nutrition program was established in 1989 to help low-income mothers buy fresh fruits and vegetables, and three years ago was expanded to include seniors. Now state horticulturist Mike Bevins says the program will include roadside stands that sell farmers’ produce.Bevins says the program began by giving them coupons good for the products sold at farmers markets, and was in part a way of supporting those markets back when the state had only about 65 of them. All the time, he says growers who ran their own roadside stands clamored to be part of the program, too. This year he says Iowa has 180 farmers markets, third in the nation behind only New York and Florida, and there’s no reason not to expand the program to those farm stands. Bevins says when the department of agriculture put out the word they would be adding farm stands, they expected a couple dozen to apply — but so far 113 people have already asked to be qualified for the program.It has to be a permanent farm stand, open at least 4 hours a week and staffed during all its hours of operation, with those hours posted for the information of potential customers. Bevins says even if the stand also sells products from other states, the coupons can only be used to purchase Iowa-grown produce. This year the state ag department will hand out one-point-two-Million dollars worth of coupons to 54-thousand women and 24-thousand seniors. Bevins says another 100-thousand Iowa seniors qualify for the program but the funding, which comes mostly from the federal government, is limited.
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