In any given month, nearly 900,000 veterans are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) to provide food for their families. Roughly 1.4 million veterans are living below the poverty line, and another 1.4 million are living just above it. Veterans are among the nearly 47 million Americans who are affected by the November 1 cuts to SNAP, which reduced an individuals benefits by approximately $10 per month.
Recognizing the critical need to provide affordable access to healthy, locally grown food for our veterans, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture allocated $25,000 to fund a Bridgeport Veterans Farmers Market Nutrition Program in 2014. Similar to the benefits provided through the USDA’s Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (FMNP) for seniors and individuals enrolled in WIC (The Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), this Veterans Famers Market Nutrition Program will provide farmers market vouchers to enrolled veterans.
With 98 percent of Bridgeport’s veterans living at an extremely low income level, this innovative program will support the health of more than 4,500 veterans located in the city. While 30 percent of these individuals have reached an age to qualify them for Senior Famers Market Nutrition Program vouchers, an outstanding 3,100 individuals have not, leaving them in a position where access to affordable, nutritious food is hard to come by.
It is our belief that this innovative pilot – created by the CT Department of Agriculture and deployed through a partnership with Bridgeport Social Services and Wholesome Wave – will fill a critical gap in food security for the city of Bridgeport’s veterans and provide them with a tool to purchase affordable, locally grown fruit and vegetables. Although the $25,000 pilot program is not an on-going federally funded initiative, a successful pilot could lead to a sustained effort in the state, and the potential for replication elsewhere.