ST. ALBANS — Early Monday morning, dozens of people waited in the Franklin/Grand Isle Community Action office to receive Vermont Farm to Family coupon books, good for $30 at local farmer’s markets.
Some, like St. Albans resident Leonard Bailey, 86, got there early to pick up a booklet. Bailey said day that he’s been receiving the coupons “as many years as I’ve been getting my mail.” Bailey’s brother was also there, and he said his son would be coming by later on to pick up his own coupons to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs at the local outdoor markets.
“It’s helpful,” Bailey said.
In addition to allowing more people to buy fresh produce and eat more unprepared, nutritional food, the Farm to Family program also helps raise awareness about farmer’s markets and increases sales.
Nearly 400 coupon booklets are distributed locally each year, 235 for seniors and 155 for non-seniors. More than 160 households picked up booklets yesterday, and usually the non-senior coupon books are gone by the end of the week.
In order to reach less mobile people who may qualify for the coupons, Northwest Family Foods travels up to Richford, Alburgh and Grand Isle to hand them out at remote food shelves and at elderly and congregate housing sites.
In addition, for those who may be unable to retrieve a booklet on their own, one can fill out a proxy form and have a friend or family member pick up the coupons.
According to Franklin/Grand Isle Community Action Director Robert Ostermeyer, phone calls and inquiries about the Farm to Family coupons start coming in as soon as the snow melts and it has become a somewhat popular event in Franklin County over the past 20 years.
“We see people who we never see otherwise,” Ostermeyer said Monday of the event. “I think it has to do with the fact that this is one of the premiere agricultural counties in the state.”
Ostermeyer added that with so many local residents growing up on or around farms, the opportunity to access the agricultural community and its products is a valued one.
“I think that produce has a special kind of standing in the lives of a lot of people in this county, and Grand Isle too,” said Ostermeyer.
All Farm to Family coupons are handed out on a first-come, first-served basis. About one in four Vermonters qualify, including those in the Vermont Dept. of Health’s WIC program, those at 185 percent poverty level or below, and those in income-eligible households with members aged 60 or older.
The program is run through the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and it is administered statewide through the Vermont Dept. for Children and Families Economic Services Division (ESD). State partners include the Dept. of Health and Dept. of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living, and the coupons are issued through the Dept. of Health district offices, the Dept. of Health Ladies First program, and Community Action Agencies.
Those wishing to check on the availability of Farm to Family coupon booklets can call the Franklin-Grand Isle Community Action office at 527-7392.
Farm to Family Markets …
Local farmer’s markets participating in the Farm to Family program include:
- Lincoln Park on Route 105
- Weds. (3-6 p.m.) and Sat. (9 a.m.-1p.m.)
- May 17-Oct. 29
- Route 2 at St. Joseph’s Church
- Sat. (10 a.m.-2 p.m.)
- May 24-Oct. 11
- 259 Route 7 South (to right of Hannaford’s)
- Thurs. (4-7 p.m.)
- June 5-Sept. 25
- People’s Trust lot (across from Main St. Grocery)
- Sat. (9 a.m.-1 p.m.)
- June 21-Oct. 4
Taylor Park on Main St.
Sat. (9 a.m.-2 p.m.)
May 17-Oct. 25