Vegetables at a Farmers' Market.

Vegetables at a Farmers' Market.

Castlegar Farmers’ Market to look at coupon program

Low-income families, pregnant women and seniors in other areas already benefitting

A program providing lower-income families, pregnant women and seniors with coupons for locally produced food is receiving an additional $2 million investment through the Provincial Health Services Authority, and a local farmer’s market will look into tapping some of those funds.

Deb McIntosh, who co-ordinates the Heritage Society Vendor Market held every Saturday at the Station Museum in Castlegar, said she had never heard of the program but told the Castlegar News Saturday, July 20 that she was going to check in to the program next week.

McIntosh also said she buys a “whack” of food from the market every week for the Community Harvest Food Bank.

“We know that having access to healthy, fresh foods makes a huge difference in health,” said Minister of Health Terry Lake in a release on July 20. “Unfortunately, for some British Columbians, it can be hard to access these nutritious necessities. This program will help us improve the health of B.C. families by offering improved access to locally produced food for those most in need.”

The Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program runs from July through October 2013 and is administered by the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets. The program offers $15 worth of coupons each week to individuals and families enrolled in the nutrition and skills building programs offered by community agencies associated with each participating market — participants must be enrolled with these community agencies to participate in the program.

This year, the program has added 13 new markets for a total of 34 participating markets located throughout the province and the investment builds on an initial investment of the same amount in 2012.

Coupons are treated like cash at participating markets and can be used to purchase a variety of B.C. food products including fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, dairy and herbs.

“This program had great success last year, and we are thrilled that it is expanding this year, with additional markets and communities participating,” said Jon Bell, president, BC Association of Farmers’ Markets. “The program is really a win-win, for both local producers and local families.”

The program is expected to support about 1,300 families and 400 seniors in 2013.

The BC Association of Farmers’ Markets accepts joint applications from farmers’ markets and community agencies on a yearly basis for the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program.

To participate in the program, farmers’ markets partner with a community agency that works to provide nutrition, cooking, or healthy lifestyle skills building programs to lower income British Columbians. Participants then gain the skills and knowledge needed to help them eat healthier and make the most of their local farmers’ markets.

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

For more information on the Farmers’ Market Nutrition and Coupon Program, Farmers Appreciation Week, or to locate a farmers’ market in your community, visit: www.bcfarmersmarket.org