Farmers’ market coupon program expanding again

A coupon program aimed at making it easier to access produce from farmers’ markets is expanding.

An additional $121,000 in funding was announced by the province, which will add 250 households to the B.C.-wide program for the 2019 farmers’ market season.

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The BC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program runs at Gibsons Farmers’ Market, Farm Gate Market in Roberts Creek, Roberts Creek Community and Farm Market, and the Sechelt Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market.

It’s still unclear whether the expansion will mean more coupons on the Sunshine Coast, however. “Because we are still in the planning process to launch the 2019 season, we do not yet have details of how the funds for the expansion will be allocated exactly,” a farmers’ market association spokesperson told Coast Reporter.

Last year, 5,335 coupons were redeemed at the Sechelt farmer’s market, an increase from 2017. Other participating markets on the Coast also saw an increase.

Participants trade in their coupons at participating farmers’ markets for local produce and vendors are reimbursed for the value of the coupons. The program is geared towards lower-income households, pregnant people, seniors, and others facing barriers to accessing quality fresh produce. Community partners distribute the coupons.

Last year, the province supplied the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets, which oversees the program, with $750,000 in funding, increasing the value of the weekly coupons to $336 from $240 per household.

“Building up on last year’s historic provincial expansion of the BC Farmers’ Market Nutrition program, we are further supporting the association to take another step towards helping more families access nutritious, B.C.-grown food,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix in a release.

“The Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program is a fantastic initiative that works on multiple levels to support healthy, sustainable communities,” said Vickey Brown, president of the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets.

The program starts on June 11 and will run until Nov. 3 at participating farmers’ markets in 76 B.C. communities. Last year, about 3,900 households participated in the program.

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