Farmers' Market Success in Squamish & Pemberton
The brochure for the Squamish Farmers’ Market Program asks “Why eat food produced closer to home?” Three years into this innovative program and partnership you could ask this question of the participants in their Healthy Pregnancy Outreach Program (CPNP).
This journey to eating local food began in 2009 when host agency Sea to Sky Community Services participated in a program with the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets. This program provided them with coupons that could be passed on to program participants. Unfortunately, this was the last year for this provincially funded program.
Program Manager Suzie Soman was sharing information on the success of the program with their Board Members in early 2010 when her comments sparked action in Tracey Kliesch, a Board Member and employee of Squamish Savings, a division of VanCity. Tracey was so moved and motivated by the program that Squamish Savings came on board immediately as a partner and sponsor. A new partnership between Sea to Sky Community Services, the Squamish Farmers’ Market and Squamish Savings emerged to save this program and continue to provide coupons to over 50 families a year.
The program is primarily advertised to participants in the HPOP program, although it is also used to bring new participants and residents of a local housing co-op into the Centre. All recipients must be pregnant or have children under the age of 18 at home. Coupons may only be used to purchase fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy, eggs, meat, fish, nuts and herbs. They cannot be used to purchase any processed foods. Each participant receives $15 worth of coupons a week between June and October.
In order to participate in the program, participants must attend two skill building cooking sessions per year facilitated y HPOP staff Gurdava and Colleen. These sessions focus on recipes including the fresh options from the Farmers’ Market and one participant remarked that the program enabled her to “… try new things – use veggies in ways I never otherwise would have.”
Suzie couldn’t be happier with the success of the program. She is seeing pregnant moms getting the iron they need through the purchase of beef, as well as parents and their children trying new fruits and vegetables for the first time. Some parents have even used their coupons to purchase plants and have started to grow their own food. The addition of the coupons into tight budgets also frees up funds for other foods that can be difficult to purchase.
With increased funding this year, the program will distribute $10,000 in coupons to Squamish families and will expand to include $7,000 of coupons for Pemberton families.
To learn more about Farmers’ Markets in your area, please visit BC Farmers Market.
If you’re shopping at the Supermarket, here’s an easy way to distinguish how the food you are buying was grown: