A local food security initiative is getting ready for its third summer of operation – and the “made-in-Fort-St.-James” version has been recognized as a provincial model for other communities looking to establish similar programs around B.C.
Over the past two summers the Fort St. James Farmers’ Market has partnered with Fireweed Collective Society and the Nak’azdli Health Centre to deliver the Farmers’ Market Nutrition and Coupon Program. This program combines access to fresh, local foods available at the Farmers’ Market with cooking and skill-building classes and information on healthy eating for families, pregnant women, and seniors and elders.
The goals of the Farmers’ Market Nutrition and Coupon Program are to increase access to fresh B.C.-produced farm products, and to expand the awareness of and sales at farmers’ markets.
The program brings families to the local farmers’ market, creating opportunities for connecting with the people growing and raising our food.
The coupon dollars support local farmers and the farmers’ market, often resulting in new markets for local farmers and food producers.
The original coupon program was a three-year province-wide initiative, with funding from the provincial government.
When that funding ended the provincial program was shut down in February 2010 by the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets.
Fireweed, Nak’azdli Health Centre, and the Farmers’ Market decided to organize their own program with local funding, and it was very successful.
Fort St. James was one of four B.C. communities to organize their own local coupon program last year. As a result, the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets contracted the Fort St James market to develop a resource kit on how to organize a coupon program in B.C. communities. That resource kit is now finished and will be available later this month.
The partners in the 2011 program are Fireweed, Nak’azdli Health Centre, the Early Childhood Development Committee, Integris Credit Union, the FSJ Farmers’ Market Association, the District of Fort St James, and local residents who have donated to the program. All of the money donated goes towards food, and all of the program organizing and administration time is donated.
The original program was the first of its kind in Canada, and Fort St James stepped up to continue this innovative program when the original funders and organizers thought it wasn’t possible to continue. The local program continues to show that, by working together, community food security is strengthened for all residents.