Farmers market assistance increased

Healthy food is a right, not a privilege, and to that end, the province is chipping in to help feed more needy individuals.

A successful program that provides lower-income families, pregnant women and seniors with coupons for locally produced food is receiving an additional $2 million investment, Health Minister Terry Lake announced today.

"We know that having access to healthy, fresh foods makes a huge difference in health," said Lake. "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.

"Here in B.C., we are fortunate to have access to diverse, vibrant farmers' markets, which provide a wide variety of healthy, local foods," said Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm. "This program helps us to support those local markets and farmers, while also improving access to local, fresh food for low-income families."

This year, the program has added 13 new markets for a total of 34 participating markets located throughout the province. Coupons are treated like cash at the 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 and will continue to expand. The $2 million in funding provided through the Provincial Health Services Authority in 2013 builds on an initial $2 million investment in 2012.

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.

"We are so pleased to be participating in the Farmers' Market Nutrition Coupon Program," said Suzan Goguen, executive director with the Seniors Outreach Society. "Each week, our seniors are able to use the coupons to visit their local market, where they can access fresh, nutritious food and engage with their community - this helps their overall health and well-being tremendously."

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, click: here

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