Back for another year at the farmers market is the coupon program which benefits both local residents and market vendors. From the left are Greg Cromarty, Ben Williams and Jen Williams. (Angelique Houlihan photo/Houston Today)

Back for another year at the farmers market is the coupon program which benefits both local residents and market vendors. From the left are Greg Cromarty, Ben Williams and Jen Williams. (Angelique Houlihan photo/Houston Today)

Farmers market coupon program expands this year

More coupon books are available this year

Eighty coupon sets are available this year to local, lower income residents and seniors to help them purchase locally grown or prepared foods from vendors at the Houston Farmers Market.

Half of those are available through Houston Link to Learning and half through the Dze L’ant Friendship Centre and the total of 80 represents an increase over last year.

The coupon program is financed by the provincial health ministry and offered through the B.C. Association of Farmers’ Markets with the idea that qualifying people are provided the opportunity to obtain locally grown or prepared foods while supporting the local foods industry.

Coupons are used to buy foods and the vendors then turn in those coupons for reimbursement.

“This year the individual weekly amount has increased from $21 to $27. Houston Link to Learning has 40 sets of coupons to distribute weekly for a total of 16 weeks,” explained Houston Link to Learning executive director Marian Ells of that agency’s direct involvement in the program.

“This is great news for our community members and seniors who will receive coupons but its also good news for the farmers market and the vendors,” she said.

The local farmers market had its first official day June 10 and is now open every Friday afternoon beside the visitors’ centre at Steelhead Park.

“The program puts fresh produce, eggs, meat and honey into the hands of families and individuals that need it,” said Ells.

“Coupons for Houston can also potentially generate up to $34560 with all 80 sets of coupons [being potenially used] that will go to the vendors and to support local growers and producers.”

This year’s allotment of 80 coupon sets is double the 40 from the past several years.

Across B.C. this year the coupon program is expected to benefit more than 8,824 households, reaching approximately 24,656 individuals, the provincial health ministry estimates.

It’s an increase of more than seven times from when the program started in 2012. In 2019-20, the province provided $2.25 million to the program, which benefited 6,684 households and approximately 19,029 individuals.