Access to proper nutrition continues to be an issue for low-income Islanders, so for the past four years, Bernie Plourde has been doing his part to help tackle the problem.
Plourde, the general manager of the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market Co-op, implemented a healthy eating initiative for those in need, which starts up again in July and run for 16 weeks
The nutrition coupon program provides low-income Islanders and many newcomers to Canada with $15 worth of coupons each week, which they can spend at the market to purchase local veggies, meat, fish, cheese, eggs and herbs.
“Because we’re a food-oriented organization, it’s at our finger tips. (We) wanted to know the best way to provide local, fresh produce to families that otherwise might not have access to it because of financial restriction.”
The market partners with organizations, including Chances and the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada, to help identify families who would benefit from the initiative, and participation remains anonymous. Last year, AIDS P.E.I. was also a partner.
Plourde said program funding varies from year to year. In its first year, the Department of Health and Wellness donated funds; the provincial Credit Union has helped out for the past two years.
The program also received $5,000 from donations made off of participating restaurants during last year’s P.E.I. Burger Love.
The market, a not-for-profit organization, invests $5,000 of its yearly revenues into the initiative, and Plourde hopes to be able to continue helping the community.
“We’re trying to have $10,000 to put towards programs on a yearly basis so they can help between 40 and 45 families.”
Last year, the program helped 41 families, including 72 children, but Plourde said it’s not just participants who reap rewards from the program, adding that with $9,000 worth of locally grown food given to families and children in the community, 18 local farmers and producers benefited as well.
Plourde is happy he is able to help, but he said the nutrition coupon program is only a small tip of the iceberg when it comes to the issue of food insecurities.
“We’re trying to put a dent in it and raise some awareness of the issues and also bringing a solution to the issue. But it’s just a small part of the problem,” he said, adding it’s an ongoing issue that “won’t go away”.