I'm currently working as an Americorps member at Area 10 Agency on Aging in lovely Bloomington, Indiana as the coordinator for the federal initiative, Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). The goal of this project is to connect low income senior citizens, 185% of poverty or less, with access to fresh, nutritious, locally grown fruits and vegetables through support of domestic agriculture and community. Toward this end, I spend Saturday mornings at our local farmers' market distributing $18 voucher booklets to those qualifying Hoosier Seniors in our area so they can go and independently purchase tomatoes, corn, peaches and the like. Certainly $18 is a meager sum to cover yearly expenses for something as basic and necessary as fruits and vegetables but each booklet of checks is at least some help, motivating good eating habits and contributing to improved well-being.
Health research has demonstrated a clear link between reduced instances of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke (the primary causes of death in the United States) when consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is increased. However, while science plainly points to the value of spinach and pears and while seniors in my community line up for access to this small voucher program, eager to eat the foods that are best for them, Area 10 this year faces the prospect of turning away some of the most vulnerable citizens served in Monroe and Owen Counties. Where we received over $14,000 worth of vouchers in 2006, in 2007 we've received just $5,800 in state funding to service the same size population. As a result, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program in Monroe and Owen Counties has been forced to cut its distribution more than in half. Most upsetting however, is that with summer barely underway our program faces termination, as available vouchers rapidly runout. With our funds drying up, many seniors in our area will no longer have access to the fruits and vegetables so vital to basic health and nutrition.