MASON CITY, Iowa - Hunger remains a persistent problem in the U.S. Feeding America says 1 in 11 Iowans are struggling with hunger; for children, 1 in 8 struggle. A pilot program launching in two North Iowa counties aims to address that.
Americorps is partnering with several organizations, including Community Partnerships for Protecting Children, Hope for Life, the Charles City Cultural Equity Board, CG Public Health, Healthy Harvest and MercyOne, on Fruits & Vegetable Vouchers. The vouchers will be available for those who qualify in Floyd and Cerro Gordo Counties beginning this year. The vouchers can be honored at farmers markets in Clear Lake, Mason City and Charles City, as well as the Charles City Hy-Vee.
Erica Chick with Americorps notes of the need for access to fresh food can be found not just in urban, more populated areas.
"It doesn't how matter how large your town is, that need is everywhere. It doesn't matter how small, how large. The important factor is getting the people to the food, and getting the food to the people."
She adds that it makes sense to partner with farmers markets, considering their familiarity each summer, and the direct access to fresh food.
"Connecting people with good food is very important, and that is something that will get us closer to becoming a Blue Zone, which is our ultimate goal."
Melissa Clough with Iowa DHS says it's important to make good, high quality, healthy food available to those in need.
"Depression, diabetes, there are many underlying conditions that people can benefit from eating and having that access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and how to prepare those, make it simple or complex. There's always something to learn and always a gap to fill."
There are talks to expand it year-round, in partnership with Hy-Vee.
"That way these vouchers are available to the citizens and people who really need the access to food can go directly to Hy-Vee and redeem thse vouchers as well."
The voucher program, which was launched by the University of Northern Iowa about half a decade ago, has had great success in the Cedar Valley. Chick is hoping the program can be expanded throughout North Iowa.
For those interested in participating in the program, contact your physician. Vouchers will be handed out during a free movie event in Charles City in June.