The provincial government announced a $750,000 expansion of the farmers' market coupon program today.
The Farmers' Market Nutrition Coupon Program provides coupons that can be used like cash at participating markets throughout British Columbia.
Each week, program participants receive $15 worth of coupons to purchase locally grown fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy, nuts, and herbs. In order to receive the coupons, participants take part in free nutrition and skills building programs offered by community agencies that have partnered with each participating market.
"Eating fresh, nutritious food is a big part of staying healthy and avoiding chronic illness," said minister of health Terry Lake. "But, for those most in need, accessing affordable, local foods can be a challenge. This program makes the healthy choice easier and helps improve the health of B.C. families."
These programs teach participants how to incorporate farmers' market foods into their everyday diet.
"With the number of B.C. farmers' markets having more than doubled in the past 10 years, it's clear that more and more British Columbians are recognizing the value of local food," said Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick. "The Coupon Program not only helps increase access to healthy food for those in need, it helps raise awareness of the importance of supporting our hard-working farmers."
Fifteen new markets have been added to the Coupon Program this season, for a total of 49 participating markets located throughout the province.
Many farmers' markets in the Interior region participate, including Kelowna, Penticton and Merritt.
This year's funding will go towards sustaining the program beyond 2015.
"Both local farmers and local families have benefitted from the ongoing success of the Coupon Program," said Jon Bell, president, BC Association of Farmers' Markets. "We couldn't be happier that the program has been expanded this year and will be continuing into next year and beyond."
The program is expected to support about 3,500 families and seniors, with an estimated 10,000 individuals benefitting in 2014. The $750,000 in funding builds on the $4 million investment provided in 2012 and 2013.
The Nutrition Coupon Program runs for 16 weeks, from July through October 2014, and is administered by the BC Association of 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.
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.