Older Nebraskans soon will have the opportunity to improve their diet through a new pilot program to be administered by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA).

United States Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman has awarded Nebraska a $200,000 grant to operate the new Seniors Farmers' Market Nutrition Pilot Program. This initiative will provide coupons for recipients to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs from Nebraska farmers' markets, roadside stands and community supported agriculture programs.

"This is a win-win situation," said Merlyn Carlson, Nebraska directors of agriculture. "This is program encourages older Nebraskans to improve their diets, while helping Nebraska producers increase their markets for locally-grown fruits and vegetables."

Senior centers and producers across the state will be notified of the new program and of the opportunity to participate. Senior citizens who qualify for the program then will be able to sign up for coupons at the nearest participating senior center.

Application for this grant program was a joint effort between NDA, Health and Human Services Division of Aging and Disability Services, Nebraska Farmers' Markets Association, University of Nebraska Extension, First National Bank of Omaha and the University of Nebraska Department of Horticulture.

This program is part of the Value-Added Agriculture initiative, introduced by Gov. Mike Johanns last year. The initiative is aimed at improving Nebraska's 43rd ranking in adding value to the state's agricultural commodities.

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