Published: Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Program links low-income seniors, young families with Valley farmers' market.
Healthy, local food is for everyone.That idea is the basis of a new program organizers at the Port Alberni Farmers' Market, the Early Years program at the health unit, and the Nee-waas Friendship Centre have started.
It encourages low-income pregnant and new moms, and seniors to shop at the market.
Vicki Lee shows off a basket full of produce available to consumers at the Farmers Market on Saturday.
50 families in Port Alberni with a $15 gift certificate, and 10 seniors with a $12 gift certificate every week to buy fresh produce, meat, eggs, milk and other available items.
Organizers hope it will increase access to healthy, local food, and dispel the belief that farmers' markets are only for rich people.
Those who receive the funds are participants in the Early Years program, which is run by the health unit, and a similar program offered at the Knee-waas Friendship Centre. Both teach young and pregnant mothers how to cook and eat well to improve the health of their babies and how to feed their young children properly. That made partnering with the programs a natural fit for the local farmers' market, said Vicki Lee, who is the president of the Port Alberni Farmers' Market Association.
They have access to the people who the funding will work for and the farmers' market, which runs Saturdays at Harbour Quay, Lee said. People think the farmers' market is expensive, but that is not true, she said. When Lee and Sharon Anderson, the Early Years program co-ordinator, were setting up the program, Lee brought in the amount of food $15 can buy.
It was a large head of lettuce, at least two meals worth for a family, a large head of broccoli, Swiss chard and a dozen eggs. All was organic, local, and full of vitamins, Lee said. "We honestly couldn't believe how much food it was and it was all so healthy," Anderson said.
The funding is provided by the provincial government for three years. The program here is ne of only three on the Island, Anderson said. The others are in the Comox Valley and the Cowichan Valley.
The coupons can be saved and used together, or each week. It simply depends how each person wants to spend theirs.
Senior participants will be found through the health unit and Knee-waas, Lee said.
"They get slightly less because they are feeding less people," Lee said.
Farmers at the market have made efforts to package meat in single-serving packages to make for easier purchasing, Less said.
The program will start either this week or next, it depends when the coupons arrive and they can be given out, Anderson said.