Rural areas fund transit to farmers market

Service supports participants in coupon program

Editor's Note: The correct phone number to call to enrol in the program is 604.485.2706.

Powell River Regional District rural directors have agreed to provide funding for bus service on the weekends to Powell River Open Air Farmers’ Market.

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BC’s ministry of health awarded a $2-million grant to the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets to increase access for low-income families and seniors to locally grown produce, meat and eggs through the Farmers’ Market Nutrition and Coupon Program. The farmers’ market, BOND (Babies Open New Doors) and Powell River Family Place have been accepted into the program, which has a minimum four-year commitment from the ministry.

Participants receive coupons worth $15 per week for 16 weeks to spend on food at the farmers’ market. Products that are eligible for purchase with the coupons include fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, nuts, eggs and freshly cut herbs.

The program benefits over 800 families province-wide, including 30 in Powell River.

Jesse Black, farmers’ market manager, made a presentation at the City of Powell River’s committee-of-the-whole meeting on June 20. He requested that the city extend bus service from the airport to the farmers’ market grounds on Saturday and Sunday during the time the market is open.

If the program is successful, which means that close to 100 per cent of the coupons distributed are redeemed, the farmers’ market, BOND and family place will be in a position for further support from the ministry, Black said. If the program is not successful, then funding will be reduced next year, he added. “The only setback that’s currently facing the participants in the program is transportation to the farmers’ market,” he said. “A lot of the participants don’t necessarily have vehicles, they may be lugging strollers and children and shopping bags with them, so it’s really difficult for them to walk from the existing bus stop at the airport 1.5 kilometres to the farmers’ market.”

Extending bus service would provide a needed public service to families and seniors without vehicles, as well as out-of-town visitors and boaters, Black said. It would also encourage residents to leave their vehicles at home, alleviate the congested parking situation on McLeod Road and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

After his presentation, Tor Birtig, director of infrastructure, explained that there was no place for city buses to turn around on McLeod Road. He had already approached the regional district about the request, since its rural transit buses were smaller.

The request went to the regional district’s June board meeting and directors authorized providing transit service to the farmers’ market on a one-time trial basis this summer. The $4,800 in funding required to provide the service is coming from the rural para-transit service account.

Electoral Area B Director Stan Gisborne voted in opposition to the motion. “I’m fully opposed to it, because that money is there for increasing the para-transit service,” he said. “That’s what it’s for. It’s not to fund a bus from the city out to the rural area.”

Colin Palmer, board chair and Electoral Area C director, said that was a good point, but the funding was one-time only. However, he added that this was another instance of the city pushing something onto the regional district at the last minute. “I want to partner with the city, but we have to stop these last-minute things,” he said. “They just drive me nuts, especially when somebody assumes the money is somewhere else.”

Still, he agreed to go along with the motion, try it for one year and find out how many people used the service. “Then we can establish a proper partnership or maybe not do it at all,” he said.

Meanwhile, the city has agreed to handle the scheduling and coordination for the service.

Families and seniors interested in enrolling in the program can call 604.485.2706 or drop by family place in Powell River Town Centre Mall from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays or from 12:30 to 4:30 pm on Fridays.

Copyright © 2017 Powell River Peak

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