Coupons catering to fresh cuisine

A coupon program in Fort St. James is giving people access to fresh fruit and vegetables.

Shannon Craig is excited to have some leafy greens in her life.

The famers market and The KEY have partnered up to promote a coupon program to give opportunity for some healthy eating.

The BC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program is currently operating in 47 communities throughout BC in hopes to bringing more than 3,600 lower-income families and individuals fresh local produce.

“It’s giving people access to fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s especially good for the younger moms where there is a need for basic skill building in nutrition and cooking,” said Judy Cormier, academic advisor at The KEY, a community outreach and resource centre located across from the farmers market in Spirit Square.

The cost of food in BC increased by 16.1 per cent between 2008 and 2012 and over 8 per cent of BC household are considered ‘food insecure’.

The FMNCP initiative hopes to improve access to fresh and locally grown food for lower-income pregnant women, families and seniors, by issuing coupons they can spend at local farmers markets. The coupons are meant to compliment existing nutrition and skill-building programs offered by community partners such as the cooking program offered at the College of New Caledonia.

Program participants receive $15.00 worth of coupons each week but larger families may receive more. Each booklet comes with green and blue coupons to identify different possible uses. Participating vendors may sell fruits, vegetables, fresh cut herbs, cheese, eggs, nuts, fish and meet, however, coupons cannot buy prepared or processed foods such as bread, baked goods or honey products. Although coupons cannot be traded or sold, holders do not have to use all their coupons every week.

The coupons will be valid July 9 through October 26 and holders are reminded that by shopping every week they may find there are new things to purchase. They are also encouraged to bring their children to join in on the experience. Shannon Craig, 50, a Fort St James resident,  found out about the program through Northern Health. Although she is currently unemployed, she has started going to the KEY twice a week to refresh herself on computer skills and to build up her personal skill set. She is excited to know she will start having regular fresh produce.

“[The coupons] are going to help me a lot. Since I’m a type II diabetic the fresh vegetables will help me immensely. I’m especially excited to get some leafy vegetables,” said Ms. Craig.

The program is an initiative of the BC Associations of Farmers Markets, Ministry of Health and community partners across the province with funding provided by Healthy Families BC.