Farm markets are multiplying around the province

Farm market coupon program expands

Seniors, pregnant women and low-income family members who take a free food preparation course get $15 a week

The B.C. government has expanded its program to offer coupons worth $15 a week for farm market produce to pregnant women, seniors and low-income families who take a nutrition course.

Health Minister Terry Lake announced on the weekend that an additional $750,000 has been added to the program for its third year of province-wide operation, in addition to $4 million provided in 2012 and 2013.

The program runs July through October, as harvest comes off local farms. It is administered by the B.C. Association of Farmers’ Markets.

Participants take a free nutrition and skills program that includes cooking, canning and preserving, and are issued weekly coupons that can be used like cash at participating farm markets to buy locally grown fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy products, nuts and herbs.

The program is expanded this year to include additional farm markets in Maple Ridge, White Rock, Clearwater, Salmon Arm, Lytton, Fort St. John, Terrace, Whistler, Nanaimo, Qualicum Beach, Port Alberni and Victoria. A total of 49 markets around the province take part, teamed with local social service agencies that offer the courses.

Lake said the program helps people make a transition to a healthier diet that lessen their risk for chronic diseases, while increasing the customer base for local farmers who sell directly to the public.

The nutrition coupon program began as a pilot in 2007, funded by the social services ministry. Its goal for this year is to support 10,000 people.

Other participating farm markets and community service agencies are in Abbotsford, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Langley, Mission, New Westminster, Port Coquitlam, Surrey, 100 Mile House, Armstrong, Cranbrook, Kamloops, Kelowna, Penticton, Nelson, Revelstoke, Vernon, Hazelton, Houston, Prince George, Quesnel, Smithers, Courtenay, Duncan and Salt Spring Island.