PUBLISHED: 12:28 PM on Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Food stamp program helps stretch dollars
As the recently hired Food Stamp Nutrition educator, Helen Idzorek works with individuals, families and community organizations to offer programs designed to assist food stamp recipients in stretching their food dollars and enjoying healthy, nutritious meals. Helen's goal is to provide educational programs that increase, within a limited budget, the likelihood of all food stamp recipients being able to make healthy food choices.

The Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program is a USDA nutrition assistance program created to improve nutrition in the United States, particularly among low-income individuals.

According to the USDA Food Stamp Program Web site, about 19 million people living in 8.2 million households received food stamps in the U.S. in 2002.

Food stamp recipients include:

• 5 percent children

• 40 percent adults

• 9 percent elderly.

Under the USDA regulations, states have the option of providing nutrition education to food stamp recipients. In Alaska, programs are offered in Anchorage, Palmer, Soldotna, Bethel and coming soon to Nome. Helen, an employee of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, was hired in May to establish the Juneau program.

"We are so pleased to have Helen join us to work with the people of Juneau," said Roxie Rodgers Dinstel, Alaska program coordinator. "As our families are faced with rising fuel prices this year it will be doubly important that people use their food dollars wisely. Good nutrition for the money is essential."

As the predominate state sponsoring agency, the CES is contracted to provide food stamp nutrition education. Helen also collaborates with other agencies, such as WIC, the Family Resource Center, Catholic Services, the Public Health Department and Public Assistance, to reach the intended audience. Program areas include adult, child and elderly nutrition; food resource management; food preparation; and household food security.

Helen holds a master's degree in cultural anthropology from the University of New Mexico-Albuquerque, where her studies focused on the impacts of HIV/AIDS on food security.

Her research included an internship in Tanzania, East Africa as an agricultural educator where she worked with local women's groups to implement bio-intensive agriculture systems to improve food quality and availability. She said she is excited to bring her understanding of food security to Juneau and is looking forward to working with the community and improving nutrition in the area.

For information about FSNEP or to enroll in the program, contact Helen Idzorek at the Cooperative Extension Service Juneau Office at 465-8746.

Koukel is the Juneau District Agent for the Home Economics Programs of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service.