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Coupon program offers fruits and veggies

Low-income families offered coupons for farmers' markets

The provincial government is once again funding a program that has produced win-win situations for farmers and lower-income families. The Farmers' Market Nutrition Coupon Program has been expanded and the province is committing $2 million this year after spending $2 million to launch the initiative last year.

Coupons are made available to seniors, pregnant women and families with low incomes to be redeemed at participating markets. The markets in Pemberton, Squamish and West Vancouver at Ambleside are participating in the program and while the Whistler Farmers' Market isn't part of the provincial initiative — market manager Chris Quinlan said the market in Whistler has its own similar program.

"The Whistler Farmers' Market currently has a $3,000 budget for providing vouchers for the food bank," said Quinlan.

The provincial coupon program will run through to October.

The program offers $15 worth of coupons weekly to individuals and families taking the nutrition and skills building courses offered by community groups like Sea to Sky Community Services. The coupons are treated like cash and can be used to buy B.C. fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, dairy and herbs.

A total of 34 markets around the province are participating in the program.

"This program provides a great opportunity to help lower-income families and seniors access nutritious local produce, while supporting our regional food producers," said MLA Jordan Sturdy.

Whistler's market operates on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesday evenings between 3 and 7 p.m. The Pemberton market operates Wednesday evenings from 4 to 7 p.m. while the market in Squamish operates on Saturdays starting at 10 a.m. The market in Squamish wraps up each week at 3 p.m. The Ambleside market is located in the parking lot behind the police station on Bellevue in West Vancouver on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.