There are many reasons that the Penticton Farmers’ Market should have been included in the Ministry of Health’s Farmers’ Market Nutrition and Coupon program, not the least of which is that Penticton has a significant population of the target market the program is aimed at.
According to the specs, the $2 million program is aimed at helping low-income seniors and families “throughout the province.” That’s done by encouraging participants to purchase locally grown foods, supplying them with $15 a week of coupons to use at their local farmers’ markets.
Sounds great, and there are benefits all around. The money is pumped directly into the local economy, families and seniors get both better nutrition and a reason to get out and socialize at the markets, and the profile of the markets themselves is raised.
And for Penticton, with a proportionately large population of seniors, many on fixed incomes, it would seem an ideal place to run such a program. Besides, the Penticton Farmers’ Market is one of the oldest and most stable in B.C., an ideal place to gather data on how effective the program is. Third, the majority of market vendors are selling food products, all made or grown locally — no imports or stalls selling plastic gewgaws. Fourth, Penticton is a regional hub … the list goes on.
But Penticton was left out. In fact, this program that is running throughout the province is only in select communities — Vernon, Kelowna, Revelstoke and Nelson for the Interior Health region — despite the fact this is the second time such a program has been run.
There is no doubt the coupon program is a good one. But it is time the province made these kind of programs, which so effectively support a healthy diet and the local economy, available in any community.