There’s great news for Vermont families participating in 3SquaresVT: Green Mountain Farm-to-School (GMFTS) is piloting a program that will allow participating Orleans and Essex county residents to buy fresh fruits and vegetables this fall and winter. The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Coupon Program will be offered at 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.
“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 at GMFTS. Families who received a letter from the Economic Services Division of Vermont can get their coupon book during scheduled pick-up times starting September 1, 2015, and they’ll have until February 29, 2016, to redeem the coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables.
The coupon program is funded by a $93,000 grant from the USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Grant Program. US Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack received a letter of support from Vermont’s congressional delegation, Senator Patrick Leahy (D), Senator Bernie Sanders (I), and Representative Peter Welch (D), when considering applications for the FINI Grant.
“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,” Senator Leahy said when announcing GMFTS as the FINI grant recipient in April. “But a helping hand is more than just putting food on a plate; it is offering healthy options to help form healthy lifestyles. 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, and Wholesome Wave.
GMFTS is also working on increasing the availability of local produce through the Farm Direct program, a regional food hub connecting area farmers to institutions that want to buy locally produced food. While it’s not required that coupon-program participants choose local options, it’s a great opportunity for local farms to establish themselves in a new market. “Our primary goal is to increase the overall purchase of fruits and vegetables,” says Katherine Sims, executive director of 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.”
For more on the Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Coupon Program, contact Becca Mitchell at email@example.com or 802-334-2044. For media inquiries, contact Shane Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-334-2044. To learn more about the work of Green Mountain Farm to School, visit: http://greenmountainfarmtoschool.org