NEWPORT, Vt. — On April 30, Green Mountain Farm-to-School ended its fourth year of operating the Fresh Fruit & Vegetables Coupon Program, distributing $70,000 worth of coupons for fresh produce to residents of Essex and Orleans counties enrolled in 3SquaresVT, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This year 89% of the coupons distributed were redeemed by consumers – up from 50% in 2018.
In total, $68,258.60 worth of fresh produce made its way to low-income households, compared to $30,175 in 2018. At the start of this year’s program, $60,000 in coupons were made available, however, increased demand from consumers led to an additional $10,000 in coupons being added to the program.
The Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Coupon program annually reaches over 3000 households in an effort to increase access to fresh produce and improve regional health outcomes and is operated in partnership with the national non-profit, Wholesome Wave, with funding through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Grant Program. Founded in 2007 by James Beard Award-winning Chef Michel Nischan and former U.S. Undersecretary of Agriculture Gus Schumacher, Wholesome Wave empowers people struggling with food insecurity to make healthier food choices by increasing affordable access to fruits and vegetables.
Information regarding the redemption of the coupons was disseminated via mail on October 1st, with assistance from the Vermont Department of Children and Families, to individuals and households receiving 3SquaresVT benefits. Coupons were available for redemption at four participating grocers in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont; Vista Foods in Newport, Craftsbury General Store, Kingdom Market in Island Pond, and C&C Market in Barton.
This year, the Program ran from October 1, 2018, through April 30, 2019. To receive coupons, individuals made qualifying purchases of $10 using 3SquaresVT benefits. These purchases needed to contain one fresh piece of produce. In return, the individual received a booklet of $10 in coupons from the cashier.
The program addresses persistent food insecurity and troubling health outcomes in the region. Based on the Vermont Department of Health’s 3-4-50 study, Orleans and Essex counties have the highest rates of preventable diseases that result in 50 percent of area deaths, several of which are directly related to diet. One in three children is on track to develop Type 2 diabetes and one in four children is food insecure. Researchers estimate that for the first time in Vermont history, children will live shorter lives than their parents.
In addition to addressing economic and nutritional challenges, the program also aims to increase local food purchasing among coupon recipients. The participating stores are encouraged to market local, healthful crops from area farms to shoppers in an effort to increase local food sales and improve local farm viability. Based on the number of coupons redeemed, each store is required to reinvest dollars back into the local food economy; making healthy local food available to all shoppers. The use of free, ready-to-go shelf-tags, register signs, table-top displays, and educational flyers from GMFTS’ statewide campaign, Vermont Harvest of the Month, supports these efforts along with in-store taste-tests and cooking demonstrations featuring local food.
For more information regarding the coupon program, please contact Catherine Cusack at firstname.lastname@example.org
–Green Mountain Farm-to-School
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