Sunday June 5, 2022 | VANCOUVER ISLAND, BC
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc. | Island Social Trends
Hanging out at an outdoor farmer’s market on a Sunday afternoon is something that comes naturally to BC Agriculture and Food Minister Lana Popham. She has been keen for many years to improve the accessibility of food to consumers in particular through strengthening the food growers sector and their integration into the larger food distribution system.
Today Popham was joined by Attorney General David Eby and BC Health Minister Adrian Dix at the local farmer’s market in Kitsilano in Metro Vancouver’s west end. Dix announced increased funding for the nutrition coupon program in 2022, with $12 million now stretching over the next three years. Eby is the MLA for Vancouver Point Grey (Kitsilano, Point Grey & UBC). He called the program “a fantastic program not only helps people and families access local, fresh food” across the province.
More seniors in the program:
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.
The Agriculture and Food Minister called the last couple of years “an incredibly difficult time for everyone”, referring of course to the impacts of the COVID pandemic.
More recently, cost of living pressures (inflation impacting everyday expenditures for food and really all products due to the increase in fuel costs) have been additionally squeezing family budgets.
Adding honey to the list:
Popham was particularly keen to announce today the addition of honey to the coupon eligibility, as beekeepers are now invited to take part in the farmers markets across BC.
Nutrition coupons support families and producers:
Generally, the nutrition coupons are aimed at income-impacted individuals and families in BC, as well as seniors and pregnant women.
As a healthy-eating initiative, the BC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program supports farmers’ markets and strengthens food security throughout British Columbia.
Good nutrition is, of course, fundamental to maintaining people’s health. The prevention of poor health and disease through nutrition is a basic plank of healthy living.
Today Dix in the funding announcement noted how the program supports health, communities and the food growing system. He said that 55 communities took part in the program when he first became Health Minister in 2017, with that number now at 92.
Now 8,824 households are using the coupons (reaching approximately 24,656 individuals), compared to about 3,000 when Dix became health minister in 2017; it’s an increase of more than seven times from when the program started in 2012 under the previous government.
Dix noted that 171 community partners are helping reach the households where the coupons can be best applied.
In 2019-20, the Province provided $2.25 million to the program, which benefited 6,684 households and approximately 19,029 individuals.
How it works:
The program is run by community organizations province-wide.
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.
In 2022, the BC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program coupon program will run from June 4 until December 18 at participating farmers’ markets in approximately 92 communities.
The nutrition coupons bring customers to farmer’s markets in BC communities, who might otherwise not seek out the fresh local produce due to income restrictions.
Popham has been pleased to see the recent shifts in how farmers markets do business, noting the shift to local farmers also being able to sell their products online.
There are over 145 farmers’ markets in BC, with organizational support through the BC Farmers’ Markets Trail, including Thompson-Okanagan (30), Kootenay Rockies & Columbia Basin (18), Cariboo Chilcotin Coast (6), Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands (28), City of Vancouver (11), Metro Vancouver (20), Sea to Sky (3), Sunshine Coast (8), Northern BC (15), Fraser Valley (6).
“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,” says Wylie Bystedt, president, BC Association of Farmers’ Markets.
At member markets, the focus is on selling fresh BC grown or prepared foods and vendors must make, bake or grow the products they sell.
Double duty dollars:
Farmers market leadership is pleased about the “powerful and impactful program”. Today at the Kitsilano Farmers Market, the three MLAs were joined by Peter Leblanc, Program Manager, Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program, BC Association of Farmers Markets.
Leblanc outlined “two amazing things” about “every dollar” in the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program (FMNCP): there is support for people to buy healthy local food for themselves and their families, and local farmers and their families also benefit.
He called that economic approach as “double duty dollars”.
Coupons can be spent at all BCAFM member farmers’ markets that participate in the FMNCP, and can be used to purchase vegetables, fruits, nuts, eggs, dairy, cut herbs, meat and fish… and now honey!
Food security on Vancouver Island:
About three percent of food consumed by the population of Vancouver Island is grown on the island. Transporting food to the island adds to cost and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions (fuel for trucking and airplanes).
A few months ago, Minister Popham announced the introduction of vertical farming on Agricultural Land Reserve land. Today she said that, so far, one display of greens from vertical (greenhouse) farming has happened at food markets so far.
Families, seniors and pregnant individuals can access the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon program by contacting community partner agencies: https://bcfarmersmarket.org/coupon-program/where-it-operates/
For more information about the BC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program or to locate a farmers’ market in your community, visit: www.bcfarmersmarket.org
For more information about the BC Farmers’ Market Trail, visit: https://bcfarmersmarkettrail.com/
For more information about how farmers and local food companies can access provincial supports, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2020AGRI0023-001022
B.C. farmers’ markets online shopping options: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2020AGRI0014-000569
===== ABOUT THE WRITER:
Mary P Brooke holds a B.Sc. in nutrition science (and a Certificate in Public Relations), which she applies in her journalism. She is the founder and editor of Island Social Trends which covers south Vancouver Island news with a socioeconomic lens.
Island Social Trends launched as a fully online news portal in mid-2020, as the next phase of the publishing journey that began with MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), then Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and then West Shore Voice News (2014-2020).
Island Social Trends is based in Langford, BC.
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