Farmers' market coupon program may face cuts amid funding woes

A farmers' market program that distributes coupons to low-income earners may need to be pared down after organizers did not receive as much funding as they expected. (David Donnelly/CBC - image credit)
A farmers' market program that distributes coupons to low-income earners may need to be pared down after organizers did not receive as much funding as they expected. (David Donnelly/CBC - image credit)

A group that helps low-income earners buy food at farmers' markets says its program will have to be pared down, following a "significantly delayed" funding announcement.

Farmers' Markets of Nova Scotia's Nourishing Communities Food Coupon Program launched in 2019. It distributes coupons to those who have difficulty buying healthy food. The coupons can be redeemed at farmers' markets all over the province, and vendors are then reimbursed.

Organizers say last year, the province contributed $494,800 to help fund the program.

Justin Cantafio, executive director of Farmers' Markets of Nova Scotia, says demand for the program has skyrocketed over the past several years. Without the proposed increases, he says the program will have to be cut back.

"With market season starting as we speak, we're faced with the harsh reality of needing to reduce program participants when food insecurity rates have never been higher," Cantafio says.

"We acknowledge our sincere appreciation for the past and continued funding support that the N.S. government has provided us to make this program possible in the first place."

Hoping to expand

Cantafio says the program was expecting a boost in funding this year through the province's upcoming Food and Beverage Strategy. But claims program's launch has been delayed.

A spokesperson for the Department of Communities Culture Tourism and Heritage says there's been no delay. Susan Mader-Zinck says the program is still being developed and is due out this year. Zinck says provincial funding for the program has been consistent for since its inception in 2019.

Cantafio says he's written to the premier and Pat Dunn, the minister of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage, asking for an added $200,000 in funding.

Along with the provincial funding, the program enjoyed $50,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funding. For the past two years, that money was distributed through Second Harvest Food Rescue. It's been cut as well.

"We were hoping to increase [the program] significantly. Now it looks like we're going to have to reduce and we really, really hope we don't have to do that," Cantafio says.

Last year, the program provided $397,440 worth of food coupons to 585 households in 33 communities provincewide.

MORE TOP STORIES