Government Provides $1.5 Million To Program That Helps Low-Income Canadians Access Affordable Produce

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The Public Health Agency of Canada is providing $1.5 million to Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC) in support of the organization’s Market Greens initiative, which aims to promote healthy eating and increase food access for low-income Canadians. 

The funding, which was announced by Health Minister Patty Hajdu on July 14, will allow the program to launch in approximately 30 locations across the country. The Market Greens initiative looks to help Canadians in low-income neighbourhoods by establishing and increasing access to affordable fresh produce markets while also offering fruit and vegetable vouchers to be used at participating markets. The program will help local organizations create year-round community markets that will offer low-cost produce as well as other possible support such as food demonstrations, tips and recipes to help participants eat healthy on a budget.

“We believe increasing access to fresh, healthy food through non-profit markets and offering subsidized access to healthy food for people living on low incomes at risk for chronic disease makes good sense,” said Kathryn Scharf, chief programs officer for CFCC, in a press release. “Market Greens will show that a simple, low-cost investment upstream in making fresh fruits and vegetables an easy and affordable choice can play a role in preventing illnesses that come at great human and economic cost when treated downstream.”

Along with the $1.5 million investment from the Public Health Agency of Canada, CFCC was able to secure matched funding from the Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security and the Arrell Family Foundation. CFCC will also pilot two new programs as part of the Market Greens initiative. 

One of the pilot programs will provide people at higher risk of experiencing food insecurity, including newcomers to Canada, Indigenous peoples, people at risk of certain chronic diseases and families with young children, with vouchers that will allow them to buy fruits and vegetables from participating markets at a reduced cost. The initiative will also promote community resources, including cooking programs, community meals and garden workshops, according to CFCC.

The second pilot will have doctors at select community health centres issue prescriptions for fruits and vegetables, primarily to low-income people who are also managing chronic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes. Participants will be able to redeem prescriptions at participating community markets.

The Market Greens initiative started as a pilot in 2018 with participants in Midland and Stratford. CFCC said early evaluations of the program were positive with 98 per cent of participants surveyed saying the program has helped them access more produce and 90 per cent of parents reporting that they are less worried about their children’s ability to get enough fruits and vegetables.

For more information on the Market Greens initiative, visit the CFCC website.

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