There’s a colourful currency floating around farmers’ markets in the Peterborough area, giving those struggling with poverty or low income a chance to get to the market and purchase healthy local food.
The Nourish Market Dollars program seems to be a win-win scenario — not only for consumers using the cash, but also for farmers who accept it for fruits and vegetables they grow and bring to market.
“A lot of people will think the market isn’t a space for them because of the perceived barrier of cost, but the Nourish Market Dollars provide a dignified way for people to come in and spend their own money,” said Elisha Rubacha, knowledge transfer specialist with the Nourish Project.
The program is a community food initiative and the organization that operates out of the YWCA building on Simcoe Street does a lot of advocacy work surrounding food and poverty.
The Nourish Market Dollars program was launched five years ago and relies upon financial support donations from community partners and individuals for funding. The currency can be exchanged for healthy food options at participating markets, including the Peterborough Regional Market, the Downtown Wednesday Market and the Curve Lake and Lakefield Farmers’ Markets.
Last year, more than $6,000 of the Nourish Market money was spent on fresh local food, and organizers hope the program continues to grow.
Circle Organics farm, located in Millbrook, participated at the Downtown Wednesday Market and the Peterborough Regional Farmers’ Market and sold more than $600 worth of fresh produce with Nourish Market Dollars.
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Julie Fleming, a farmer and owner of Circle Organics, says the Nourish Market Dollars are helping support their work in growing organic food.
“This program helps farmers because it makes our food more accessible to a wider range of people in this community, so that is a huge benefit to us,” said Fleming. “Organic food is cost-prohibitive to a lot of people in the community, but we have to also cover our cost of production.
“It’s important for us to charge what we charge, but we really want our food to be accessible to everyone, and so this is a great tool to bring together farmers and those who are on a low income.”
There are numerous studies detailing the benefits of a diet based on fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Fresh fruits and vegetables are really great for our diet because they can help reduce the chance of things like cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and it also tastes great,” said registered diet Lauren Kennedy.
It’s a taste many Canadians — particularly those on a low income — don’t often get.
“About 1 in 3 people are eating enough vegetables and fruit, and so that’s something we can always be adding more of,” said Kennedy.
Nourish hope to have the Market Dollars available at the Peterborough Regional Farmers’ Market at some point this year, but to help keep the program going and growing, you can visit the YWCA office on Simcoe Street, go to the Nourish website to donate, or buy some Nourish Market Dollars.