Communications, Outreach, and Development Associate
Green Mountain Farm-to-School
email@example.com | 802-334-2044
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Coupons Encourage Fresh Eating in Northeast Kingdom
Green Mountain Farm-to-School (GMFTS) is piloting a new program that allows Orleans and Essex county residents participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, 3SquaresVT, to purchase an additional $75 of fresh fruits and vegetables this fall and winter. Five Northeast Kingdom grocery stores – Kingdom Market in Island Pond, Vista Foods in Newport, Craftsbury General Store, C&C Market in Barton, and Ray’s Market in Irasburg – will be involved in the Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Coupon Program, offering participants a diverse range of places to redeem their coupons.
Families who received a letter from the Economic Services Division of Vermont were able to receive a coupon book in early September and have until Feb. 29, 2016 to redeem the coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables at the participating locations.
“Through the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables 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,” says Becca Mitchell, consumer education coordinator, GMFTS, “We hope it will incentivize participants to make those choices in the future as well.”
The program was met with overwhelming interest with potential participants lining up, sometimes more than an hour, before pick up times. Of the 420 booklets handed out to Northeast Kingdom residents, each holding 75 one dollar coupons, over one-third of them were redeemed within the first month of distribution.
“It’s encouraging to see the enthusiasm of participants in purchasing the fresh fruits and vegetables with their coupons,” says Catherine Cusack, program director, GMFTS, “The need and the want for fresh fruit and vegetables is clearly there in our communities and we are glad that we’re able to help meet some of that demand.”
In addition to piloting the program, GMFTS is working on increasing the availability of local produce in the participating market places through their Green Mountain Farm Direct program, a regional food hub that connects area farmers to institutions that want to buy locally produced food. While it’s not required for participants in the coupon program to choose the local options, it’s a great opportunity for local farms to establish themselves in a new market.
“Our primary goal of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Coupon Program is to increase the overall purchase of more fruits and vegetables,” says Katherine Sims, executive director, GMFTS, “However; we don’t want to miss the opportunity to encourage the purchase of the local, healthy food that will help spur further economic growth in the region.”
Green Mountain Farm-to-School and members of the Food Retailers Task Force collaborated to apply for and receive aUSDA FINI grant and a matching grant from the Farm to Plate Network Fund to develop the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Coupon Program. The program is being implemented by Green Mountain Farm-to-School, headed by consumer education coordinator, Becca Mitchell, with support from an advisory group, made up of members of the Food Retailers Task Force and other state agencies and organizations.
United States Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack received a letter of support on behalf of GMFTS and the Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Coupon Program from Vermont’s congressional delegation – Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), and Rep. Peter Welch (D)– when considering applications for the FINI Grant Program.
“SNAP is a helping hand to many families trying to stretch their food budget so that they can put three meals on the table every day. But a helping hand is more than just putting food on a plate, it is offering healthy options to help form healthy lifestyles,” said Sen. Leahy when announcing GMFTS the recipient of the FINI grant in April, “Pairing this program with incentives to use local, Vermont fruits and vegetables makes sense, and it’s a winning scenario for everyone. I am proud Green Mountain Farm-to-School has been selected to continue its extraordinary work of connecting our children, farms, and communities throughout the state.”
To implement the program, GMFTS has partnered with the University of Vermont Center for Sustainable Agriculture,Vermont Department of Health and Department of Children and Families, Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, andWholesome Wave.
Questions regarding the Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Coupon Program may be directed to Becca Mitchell firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-334-2044.