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More British Columbians benefit from new round of farmers' market program funding

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 11:40 PDT, Fri June 10, 2022

New funding for the BC Farmers' Market Nutrition Coupon Program will help improve access to healthy, locally grown food for lower-income British Columbians and people who are pregnant, while increasing the number of Elders and seniors participating in the program.

The province provided the BC Association of Farmers' Markets (BCAFM) with approximately $12 million to support the program, which provides coupons to purchase fresh, healthy, local food at B.C. farmers' markets.

"Our government continues to support the BC Farmers' Market Nutrition Coupon Program, which is widely supported across the province," said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. "The program encourages people to buy nutritious, locally grown food, which helps to improve the health and well-being of British Columbians and builds a sense of community."

Of the funding, $3 million will be used to support approximately 1,750 additional seniors' households joining the program. The BCAFM will work with existing community partners to invite more seniors in need to participate as well as invite new organizations that serve seniors into the program.

Honey has also been added to the list of local food available for people with coupons this year.

"This important program is helping more British Columbians access the fresh, healthy products that are grown and produced right in their own backyards and sold at our wonderful farmers' markets," said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture and Food. "By supporting increased participation in the program for those who need it most, we are helping more people become food secure while also strengthening our provincial food system and local food economies."

In 2022, the coupon program is expected to benefit more than 8,824 households, reaching approximately 24,656 individuals. This is an increase of more than seven times from when the program started in 2012. In 2019-20, the province provided $2.25 million to the program, which benefited 6,684 households and approximately 19,029 individuals.

"This fantastic program not only helps people and families access local, fresh food, but it also supports local farmers and producers in B.C. It's great to see that this year, seniors in Vancouver and throughout the province will have even more opportunities to participate," said David Eby, MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey.

The BC Farmers' Market Nutrition Coupon Program is a healthy-eating initiative that supports farmers' markets and strengthens food security throughout British Columbia. In 2022, the coupon program will run from June 4 until Dec. 18 at participating farmers' markets in approximately 92 B.C. communities.

"Farmers' markets support better nutrition, as well as local entrepreneurs and growers throughout B.C.," said Wylie Bystedt, president, BCAFM. "The Farmers' Market Nutrition Coupon program is a great way to help people get home-grown, world-class B.C. produce while developing a strong, sustainable agricultural sector that is proud to serve our local communities. We are grateful for the Ministry of Health's continued investment in building healthy communities across the province. Through their investment, we see communities having success in healthy initiatives and flourishing farmers' markets."

The program is run by community organizations provincewide. In 2022, eligible recipients will receive $27 dollars of coupons per week for 16 weeks to help them purchase local food, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, eggs, dairy, herbs, vegetable and fruit plants, meat, and fish. This is a $6 increase from the $21 dollars per week in 2021.

The BCAFM is helping to provide consumers with locally grown and prepared food products through a new online platform, with many farmers’ markets connected virtually to serve their communities.

In addition, the province is working to support local food access and availability, especially in rural, remote, and Indigenous communities. In 2021-22, the B.C. government provided $2.5 million to provincial health authorities to strengthen community capacity to improve food access and availability through the Community Food Action Initiative. United Way BC also received $250,000 to develop and implement a new Food Infrastructure Grant program that has helped improve access to local food, build local food systems, and help ensure communities are less affected by food system disruptions caused by climate emergencies, such as wildfires and flooding.

Construction of a climate-resilient cellar to store harvested food for communities to access in emergencies and purchase of canning equipment to preserved hunted and gathered foods in a remote Indigenous community are two examples of projects supported by the Food Infrastructure Grant program in 2021-22.

The coupon program is available to all farmers' markets in B.C. who are members of the BC Association of Farmers' Markets and who meet certain criteria. Farmers' markets can visit the association's website for more information, and applications for 2022 are still open.

All BCAFM markets currently operating in B.C. have put protocols in place to help ensure the health and safety of vendors, organizers, and customers. The BCAFM is a provincially registered, non-profit society that represents more than 145 farmers' markets throughout the province.

At member markets, the focus is on selling fresh B.C. grown or prepared foods and vendors must make, bake, or grow the products they sell.

For more information about the BC Farmers' Market Nutrition Coupon Program, or to locate a farmers' market in your community, visit: www.bcfarmersmarket.org

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