Alberta farmers’ markets add voice urging Ottawa to help fund charity coupon program
Amanda Anderson CTV News Edmonton Follow | Contact Craig Ellingson CTVNewsEdmonton.ca Digital Producer Follow | Contact Updated Oct. 27, 2023 6:51 p.m. MDT Published Oct. 27, 2023 5:18 p.m. MDT
Farmers’ markets across Canada believe they can help address food insecurity while supporting local businesses, but they say they would need help from the federal government to do it. Canadian Farmers’ Markets, a national association for the business sector, has collected petitions from 68 markets in 52 ridings across the country asking the federal government to invest in a national coupon program fund to help bolster existing and proposed programs. Christie Fleck, the executive director of the Alberta Farmers’ Market Association, said the coupon program is “very successful” and wants to see Alberta included in it.
“The Canadian Farmers’ Market Coalition is looking to the federal government to build a fund and this fund would be used to support the provinces that currently have it and help encourage provinces like Alberta to get this program,” Fleck told CTV News Edmonton on Friday.
Fleck said 21.8 per cent of people in Alberta face food insecurity, including more than one-in-five children.
“It’s really important to get those people fresh local food that they might not get from other sources,” she said.
The program would allow farmers’ markets to work with agencies to identify and provide market coupons to people in need, who would then “shop at the farmers’ market for healthy local food and the coupons get exchanged to the market managers after that for payment for the vendors,” said Fleck.
With a one-time grant of $25,000, the farmers’ market in Brooks, Alta., tried its own coupon program this season. Roxanne Ross, the manager of the Brooks Farmers’ Market, said given the stigma attached to food banks, she was initially concerned people using coupons might be treated differently at the market.
“It was actually the vendor I was worried that they might judge the people who were using them, he came to me with almost tears in his eyes saying ‘Roxanne, we are making such a difference,’ so I knew right there we were in a winning situation,” Ross told CTV News Edmonton.
She said the Brooks program helped 100 people while supporting local vendors.
“We saw that this program was effective,” Ross said. “It was a win-win in that it was addressing food insecurity, putting food in hungry bellies, with another solution of food security, keeping farmers farming as well as the win of building community. So we saw the impact of it, the effectiveness of it … it would be a shame not to invest in a program that’s a win, win, win all the way around.”