The recent story, "Lawmakers live on food stamps for one week" (Sept. 21), presented an important reminder about the challenges faced by many individuals and families who find themselves living on limited resources.
As the article pointed out, there are people who believe that having less money means eating only inexpensive processed foods that are generally high in empty calories and void of nutritional benefits. However, this is not necessarily true. Eating healthy on limited financial resources is possible. The good news is that the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service Juneau District office offers free classes and publications through the Health, Home and Family Development program that oversees the Alaska Nutrition Education Program.
ANEP is a federal/state partnership with a mission to provide educational programs to people who are eligible for food stamps in order to equip them with the information needed to make healthy food choices within a limited budget. People who qualify are not required to be food stamp recipients in order to participate in and benefit from the program. Alaska nutrition program educators are found in the Extension Service district offices of Anchorage, Bethel, Fairbanks, Juneau, Nome and Palmer. These paraprofessionals serve their communities on a part-time basis, developing and delivering basic nutrition and food-budgeting programs to targeted audiences. The nutrition educators tailor their programs according to the needs of their community and available resources.
We applaud the Alaska lawmakers and volunteers who took part in the Food Stamp challenge to help raise hunger awareness. The purpose of this letter is to take this initial step to the next level: Raise awareness of the Alaska Nutrition Education program. We are confident that had the challenge participants contacted our office, we could have provided them with the necessary tools to make healthy eating affordable. No one should go hungry in America.
For more information about ANEP, contact the Cooperative Extension Service Juneau District Office at 796-6221.
Sonja Koukel and Jennifer Nu
Alaska Nutrition Education Program, Juneau District
Cooperative Extension Service UAF