Summer Harvest Programs in Action to Alleviate Hunger

The 2023 Farmers’ Market Nutritional Coupon Program kicked off this month helping to alleviate some of the effects of rising food costs for low income earners on Salt Spring. The Coupon Program is provided by Island Community Services in partnership with the Tuesday Farmers’ Market. That, in tandem with the Harvest Farm in the Burgoyne Valley, launches the Harvest Food Program at Island Community Services  into high summer gear.

The Harvest Farm is part of the Salt Spring Island Farmland Trust land in the Burgoyne Valley. It provides fresh produce to a wide range of Island Community Services programs, distributing food to the Food Bank, Seniors’ Meals, Drop-In programs and Community Fridges at various locations around the island.

The cost of providing nutritious meals is further and further out of reach for the average British Columbia family, according to a new report by the BC Centre for Disease Control.

“Food Costing in BC 2022 – Assessing the affordability of healthy eating” was released by the agency in May of 2023 and looks at the average monthly food cost and affordability of a nutritious diet for May – June, 2022 based on the National Nutritious Food Basket  – a survey tool developed by the federal government consistent with Canada’s Food Guide.

The report finds that the average monthly cost of a nutritious food basket for a reference family of four was $1,263.00. That figure is beyond the ability of many low-income families to spend on food, once rent and other living costs are paid.

“In some cases…, families or individuals must choose between having a roof over their heads and eating enough nutritious food” states the report.

The BC Farmers Market Nutrition Coupon Program provides provincial-wide funding assisting lower-income families and seniors to shop at their local Farmers’ Market. The Harvest Food Program of Island Community Services facilitates this provincial initiative which includes fundraising, administration and coupon distribution.

Families and seniors who are successful in their application to the program are provided with a minimum 16 week supply of coupons which they can exchange for food items at the Salt Spring Island Tuesday Farmers’ Market. This year there are 48 seniors and 72 families who are receiving coupons with 20 more households on the waitlist.

Salt Spring Island has been a standout in the province in that there has been a generous amount of private donations bolstering the provincial funding, allowing the program to expand to a greater number of people in need. As more donations are received, those on the waiting list can still be entered into the program even though the intake is officially closed once the market has begun.

For more information see Harvest Food Programs