The farmers market in Houston has become a welcoming place for local vendors offering up fresh food for locals. A coupon program offers assistance in purchasing food as well. (File photo)

The farmers market in Houston has become a welcoming place for local vendors offering up fresh food for locals. A coupon program offers assistance in purchasing food as well. (File photo)

Coupons continue to bolster farmers market

Seniors benefitted from added booklets this season

Houston Link to Learning is reporting that 9,005 coupons from a dual purpose provincial program of assisting lower income people to buy food while boosting farmers market vendors at the same time were redeemed at the Houston Farmers Market this past season.

“This is absolutely fabulous for the recipients and for the market vendors,” said Marian Ells, the manager of Houston Link to Learning which distributes coupon books in the local area.

In all, the redeemed coupons carried a value of $27,015.

Houston Link to Learning has been distributing coupon books on behalf of the provincial agriculture ministry for more than 10 years, an effort dovetailing with its promotion of the annual farmers market.

Each coupon has a value of $3 for the purchase of food and vendors then redeem the coupons afterward for cash payment.

“Recipients can use the coupons at any farmers market in the province but as we did distribute at the actual market it does encourage spending while people are there,” said Ells.

This year Houston Link to Learning not only distributed its regular allotment of 40 sets of coupons but it was provided with 20 more sets, specifically for seniors thanks to a bump up from the provincial government.

“We did distribute them all this year,” added Ells of the added coupon sets.

“It was really popular. So many seniors live on a restricted and fixed income and this can really help them access healthy and quality produce, eggs, meat and honey.”

In existence now for more than a decade, Houston Link to Learning stepped in about six years ago when the original organizing group dissolved.

Houston Link to Learning already had a connection to the market through its community garden program which grew as an extension of the organization’s literacy programming.

If the market was not run as a farmers market, the coupon program would have been lost and that provided an added incentive to keep market in place.

Ells said the market continues to grow with a weekly average of 10 vendors present this past season.

”We are very grateful to all the vendors who come out in all weathers to offer their products to the community,” she said.

Houston Link to Learning also distributed 5,760 coupons alloted to the Dze L’Kant Friendship Centre but was not responsible for tracking the results.