A B.C.-wide program that provides vouchers to low-income families, pregnant women and seniors to shop at farmers’ markets saw a big jump in participation this year.
“We redeemed 5,335 coupons at the Sechelt Farmers’ Market for 2018, for a value of $16,005. This is up significantly from last year,” said Michelle Young, who owns and operates Ruby’s Run Farms and sits on the board of the Sechelt Farmers’ Market. Between 2014 and 2015, the program’s redemption totals for the Sechelt market were approximately $10,000 and rose to $12,000 in 2017. Young attributed this year’s coupon redemption increase to the organization’s fundraising efforts – they brought in more than $1,500 this year – and because the Ministry of Health expanded the program.
The farmers’ market in Gibsons also saw an increase. In 2017, 407 coupons were redeemed in Gibsons for a total of $1,221. That amount nearly doubled in 2018, with 714 coupons redeemed for a total of $2,367. The participating market in Roberts Creek did not provide numbers before Coast Reporter’s deadline.
Participants of the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program are given $21 worth of coupons weekly to exchange with vendors for fresh produce such as vegetables, meat and eggs. BC Association of Farmers’ Markets, the provincial government and the provincial Health Services Authority run the program with the help of community donations. Community partners distribute the coupons.
Steve Bastien, site manager at the Sechelt market, said the demand for the program is high, and Young said participants have responded positively. “Many of the coupon customers would not otherwise come to the market, nor buy the fresh produce, which is more expensive than processed stuff from the store. Thus the program is achieving its goal of enabling these folks to buy and eat fresh produce,” she said in an email.
The Sechelt Farmers’ Market and farmers’ market in Gibsons are closed for the season, but the Roberts Creek Community Market continues its season indoors at the Community Hall from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. every Wednesday.