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Farm market voucher program could expand to West Shore

B.C. Association of Farmer's Markets gives dozens of Greater Victoria families vouchers to spend at markets like Moss Street

While not as drastic as the TV show Extreme Couponing, families are getting free produce with coupons at the farmer's market.

B.C. Association of Farmer's Markets runs the program to give dozens of Greater Victoria families vouchers to spend at farmer's markets during the summer.

The Goldstream Station Market was approached to join the program this year, but the Luxton Station Market Society Board decided not to apply.

"The board said we had a lack of man power, volunteers and we didn't have enough farmers for the program," said Kelly Parkin, Goldstream Station Farmer's Market.

While the Langford market won't be a part of the program this year, Parkin would like to see the voucher program used at the Langford market in the future.

"I would like us to battle the stereotype of the farmer's market being an affluent thing," Parkin said. "It's not a clicky thing you do in urban centres, it's just a way to eat food."

The Moss Street Market in Victoria will enter its fifth year this year as part of the province-wide program, and Peter LeBlanc, of the B.C. Association of Farmer's Markets, is still eager to find a West Shore market to join.

For the second year LeBlanc will work with the Victoria Native Friendship Centre connecting families to the program. Last year 50 families and 10 seniors were involved.

One challenge was the distance of the Moss Street Market for the clients, LeBlanc explained.

"Transportation to the market is one of the barriers we identified," LeBlanc said. While the VNFC is in Saanich many of its clients are on the West Shore and could benefit from using the coupons closer to home.

"For those who could make it to the market they had a very high satisfaction rate," LeBlanc said.

The program is funded through the Ministry of Heath to operate across the province.

This year Victoria Foundation is eager to donate funds to increase the value distributed in coupons across Greater Victoria.

"So often when people ask for donations for food it isn't often nutritious and it's just a bunch of carbohydrates," said Sandra Richardson, Victoria Foundation CEO. "It's not their fault though you can't always donate a bunch of carrots. We need to look at the bigger picture."

Victoria Foundation plan to donate to the project regardless is a West Shore market is selected to be involved in the program.

"With food security there are so many different players and it's difficult too fund them all so why not bring them together," Richardson said. "What are the barriers to have a good balanced diet."