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Food coupon program may cut participants: possible lack of funding

By Caitlin Snow May 3, 2023 | 12:05 PM

Army Medicine / CC

A province-wide, farmers’ market program, may have to cut the amount of people it helps due to lack of funding.

The program has three key objectives:

1) to provide financial support to those in need to access healthy food, recognizing that Nova Scotia has amongst the highest rates of food insecurity of any province in Canada

2) to provide an experience that supports physical, mental, and community health

3) to support local producers and farmers in developing a robust and resilient food system in Nova Scotia.

The Farmer’s Market of Nova Scotia (FMNS) received a total of $494,800 last year, from the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage, up from the $400,000 from 2021. This funding was in addition to $50,000 from Second Harvest Food Rescue.  The money allowed the Nourishing Food Coupons Program, through the FMNS to provide almost $400,000 worth of food coupons every week to 585 households in 33 communities across the province, last year, over an 8-month period.

This year’s provincial budget has $424,000 worth of funding, with no guarantee for increases this year, which means they may not be able to help as many people.

“We’d like to stress that we’re beyond thankful for all of the past and continued funding support that the Nova Scotia Government has provided to this program over the past four years, without which this program wouldn’t exist”, says Justin Cantafio, Executive Director of Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia. “The trouble is that the demand for our program is skyrocketing yet proposed budgetary increases can’t be guaranteed until the Province launches its Food & Beverage Strategy. With market season starting as we speak, we’re faced with the harsh reality of needing to reduce program participants when food insecurity rates have never been higher.”

Cantafio stressed that he sincerely appreciates the provincial government for their past funding and continued support of the program. He is simply advocating for the program not to have reduced funding at a time when Nova Scotians need it most.

“We’re facing a real crisis here in Nova Scotia, where well over one in six Nova Scotians are experiencing food insecurity, we’re probably getting closer to one and five, with with inflation,” said Cantafio. “Reduced funding will mean that we’ll have to operate at about 75%. That means cutting over 100 households that were benefiting from the program last year, at a time when we’ve never need this program more than we do right now. “

FMNS has written to Premier Tim Houston and Pat Dunn, Minister of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage, requesting $200,000 in bridge funding so the program can grow in 2023 and help those who need it.  They have not yet, heard back.

The food coupon program launched in May, 2019.


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