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Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Coupon Program Increases Access to Healthy Foods in the NEK

http://greenmountainfarmtoschool.org/fresh-fruit-and-vegetable-coupon-program-increases-access-to-healthy-foods/

NEWPORT, VT - For the fourth consecutive year, Green Mountain Farm-to-School is offering $60,000 in coupons for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables to the residents of Essex and Orleans counties enrolled in 3SquaresVT, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Coupon program annually reaches over 3,000 households in an effort to increase access to fresh produce and improve regional health outcomes.

The Program is operated in partnership with the national non-profit, Wholesome Wave, and is funded through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Grant Program.  

Last year, the program saw a 50% redemption rate, resulting in $30,175 worth of sales.

Information regarding the redemption of the coupons was disseminated via mail October 1, with assistance from the Vermont Department of Children and Families, to individuals and households receiving 3SquaresVT benefits. Coupons are 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. There is no requirement for participation in the program, the redemption of the coupons have no impact on an individual's benefits, and there is no limit to the number of coupons an individual can redeem.

This year the Program will run from October 1, 2018, through April 30, 2019. To receive coupons, individuals must make a qualifying purchase of $10 using 3SquaresVT benefits. This purchase must contain one fresh piece of produce. In return, the individual will receive 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.

“If we are going to reverse this trend and move our children and region toward a healthier future, we must continue to address food access and nutrition of our children and community as a whole,” saidOutreach Coordinator, Jeyna Diallo. “This program is one strategy for increasing the consumption of and access to healthy foods.”

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 amount 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 questions regarding the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Coupon Program, please contact Jeyna Diallo at jdiallo@gmfts.org.