Farmers’ markets coupon program expands

A program that encourages low-income families and pregnant women to shop at farmers' markets is gaining momentum.

A program that encourages low-income families and pregnant women to shop at farmers’ markets is gaining momentum.

The Farmer’s Market Nutrition Coupon Program is a partnership between the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets, the Province of British Columbia and the Provincial Health Services Authority. The program operates in 62 communities, where local farmers’ markets partner with local organizations that work with the priority populations that receive the coupons.

In Creston, the program is administrated by Valley Community Services in conjunction with the Creston Valley Farmers’ Market. Coupons for redemption at designated market vendors are distributed weekly during the four-month period.

In a joint announcement last week, BC health and agriculture ministers said provincial funding will be increased by nearly three-quarters of a million dollars.

“Farmers’ markets support better nutrition, as well as local entrepreneurs and growers throughout BC,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “On that note, our government is making the most significant provincial increase to the BC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program since it was introduced, to raise the value and number of coupons provided to people.”

“Many communities support this program, and we are thrilled to increase its positive impact on families and local food producers and to promote our agriculture sector,” Lana Popham, Agriculture Minister, said. “Residents and municipalities all over the province are united in their praise for this program, and have been eager to see it continue and grow.”

Locally, 35 families and individuals will receive $336 in coupons over four months, a boost from the $240 amount last year. Provincially, the number of expectant mothers participating in the program will also increase by 450 by March 2020, and the number of participating households is expected to rise from 3,708 to over 3,900.

The program provides participants enrolled in nutrition and skills-building programs, which are offered by community agencies associated with each participating market, with coupons to help them purchase local food including vegetables, fruit, nuts, eggs, dairy, herbs, meat and fish.

“We are excited with the Minister of Health’s announcement ahead of farmers’ markets reopening in many communities around B.C. this summer,” said Wylie Bystedt, president of BC Association of Farmers’ Markets and Cariboo rancher. “We know there are significant benefits as a result of this program, ranging from improved population health to economic activity. The program has increased and sustained the customer base for local and regional farmers, which in turn has allowed them to grow and diversify.”

The BC Association of Farmers’ Markets is a provincially registered, non-profit association, which represents over 145 farmers’ markets throughout the province. At member markets, the focus is on selling B.C. grown or processed, farm-fresh foods, and vendors must either make, bake or grow the products they sell.

The BC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program builds on the work government is doing to reduce poverty in British Columbia. Thousands of people participated in a comprehensive public consultation, where they discussed the challenges and shared their ideas about how to reduce poverty in British Columbia.

Creston Valley Advance