Victoria helps poor access fresh produce

Produce coupons good at B.C. Association of Farmers' Markets

THE provincial government is making a $2 million investment in a program that helps improve nutrition and supports local farmers.

The government announced last week that the Farmers' Market Nutrition Coupon program would receive $2 million to build on the $2-million investment made in 2012 by the Provincial Health Services Authority. The coupon program is a collaboration of community groups and the B.C. Association of Farmers' Markets to provide low-income families and seniors on the North Shore access to locally grown produce and food products.

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"This program provides a great opportunity to help lowerincome families and seniors access nutritious local produce, while supporting our regional food producers," said Jordan Sturdy, MLA for West Vancouver-Sea to Sky.

The program runs until October and offers $15 worth of coupons on a weekly basis to those participating in either the Salvation Army New Hope Community Kitchen or the Sea to Sky Community Services cooking and skill-building programs. The programs are meant to give participants the skills and knowledge to eat healthier and take advantage of local markets.

The coupons are treated like cash and can be used at the farmers' markets in Ambleside, Lonsdale Quay, Squamish and Pemberton.

West Vancouver-Capilano MLA Ralph Sultan said the coupons are a great way to help anyone with a limited income get the nutrition they need. "Our farmers' markets offer fresh, healthy, locally grown food, and we want to ensure people of all income levels have access to it," said Sultan.

The coupon program added 13 new markets for a total of 34 throughout the province and is expected to support around 1,300 families and 400 seniors this year.

"As a dietitian, I'm very pleased to see the expansion of this great program," said Jane Thornthwaite, North Vancouver-Seymour MLA.

The B.C. Association of Farmers' Markets is a non-profit association that represents farmers' markets throughout the province. Member markets focus on selling locally grown or processed farm-fresh foods and vendors must make, bake or grow the products they sell.

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