Communications, Outreach, and Development Associate
email@example.com | 802-334-2044
For Immediate Release
Coupon Program Provides Fresh Produce for In-Need Vermonters
In September, Green Mountain Farm-to-School (GMFTS) began the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Coupon Program, a pilot program that offered Orleans and Essex county residents participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, 3SquaresVT, to purchase an additional $75 of fresh fruits and vegetables through the end of February. Five grocery stores in the Northeast Kingdom participated in the program – Kingdom Market in Island Pond, Vista Foods in Newport, Craftsbury General Store, C&C Market in Barton, and Ray’s Market in Irasburg.
“Through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Coupon Program, we want to improve access to healthy foods for low-income residents and encourage them to choose the fresh vegetable and fruit option while shopping in their local grocery stores,” said Becca Mitchell, consumer education coordinator with Green Mountain Farm-to-School and lead of the program, “We hope it will incentivize participants to make those choices in the future as well.”
Response to the program was overwhelmingly positive with the 420 available coupon booklets, each holding 75 one dollar coupons, being claimed within the first days of distribution. Ninety-five percent of the coupons had been redeemed to purchase fresh vegetables and fruits by the end of February.
“I think it’s a wonderful program,” said one participant in a post-program interview to analyze the impact of the program conducted by University of Vermont, “It helps introduce people to fruits and vegetables that they normally wouldn’t buy because they don’t have enough money.”
“I was able to have vegetables through most of my pregnancy,” said another participant.
“This helped me teach my 9-year-old about new foods,” confirmed yet another.
In addition to piloting the program, GMFTS has been working on increasing the availability of local produce in the participating market places through Green Mountain Farm Direct, a regional food hub operated by GMFTS. GMFTS and partners have applied for a second year of funding and if it is to prevail, the hope is to continue the progress made in stocking more local products in the super markets.
“The primary goal of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Coupon Program is to encourage participants to purchase more fruits and vegetables and give them the opportunity to do so,” says Katherine Sims, executive director, GMFTS, “However, we also don’t want to miss the opportunity to foster economic growth in the region by encouraging those purchases to be of local fresh fruits and vegetables.”
The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Coupon Program was funded by a USDA FINI grant, applied for in collaboration with the Food Retailers Task Force, and a matching grant from the Farm to Plate Network. A letter in support of awarding the grant was submitted on behalf of GMFTS by Vermont’s congressional delegation – Rep. Welch, Sen. Leahy, and Sen. Sanders. To implement the program, GMFTS partnered with University of Vermont Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Vermont Department of Health and Department of Children and Families, Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, and Wholesome Wave.