Margaret Congdon, manager of the Truro Farmers' Market, shows off some of the food bucks available to customers. They're also available to those facing food insecurity through the Nourishing Communities Food Coupon Project. Raissa Tetanish - Hub Now

TRURO – A local mother and her two small children have been using a market bucks program to its full extent.

For the last two years, Lindsay Tattrie has taken part in the Nourishing Communities Food Coupon Project at the Truro Farmers’ Market. She first heard of the program through Maggie’s Place, where she had joined a mommy gardening group.

“I knew (Nourishing Communities) would be a wonderful program where my children and I could get fresh vegetables and fruit weekly,” said Tattrie, whose children are five and six. “I was able to expose my children to a variety of healthy and new foods. I was able to buy and try out new food recipes I’m not able to do on my small food budget.”

Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia has been coordinating the market bucks program for the past two years thanks to funding from the province’s Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage. The money is intended to help people facing food insecurity.

Margaret Congdon, manager of the Truro Farmers’ Market, says more than $12,500 in market bucks went to clients this past season. Funding allows the market to offer the program from the beginning of July until Dec. 19, with vendors still accepting market bucks early in the new year.

“We had 16 individuals, two couples and 13 families utilize the program this season, which was more than last year so we’re pretty happy,” said Congdon. “Now, we’re trying to keep growing it.”

She says they’ve already applied for program funding for next season, however Congdon is hoping to find bridge funding to keep it going from February until the end of June.

“During this time of year is especially hard for those facing food insecurity,” she said. “We are hoping to reach some individuals or local businesses who want to give funding to those most in need.”

Tattrie works part-time and attends adult learning. After paying her rent and bills, she says, there’s little money left for a weekly food budget.

“Having the weekly market money bucks has ensured that we have had healthy and a good variety of weekly meals,” she said. “We enjoyed good health snacks; cut up carrot sticks, cut up cucumbers, apples, yummy cherries, fresh strawberries and blueberries have been our top snacks. We were able to enjoy yummy smoothies during the hot summer.”

For years, the market has had $5 tokens made through the Colchester Community Workshops. Looking like buttons, customers are able to buy those tokens similar to a gift card. All market vendors accept the tokens.

Through the market bucks program, individuals receive $20 weekly, while couples receive $25 and families receive $30.

Congdon says the local market received some leftover funding through Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia and she was able to give it to a single mother who was in just a week ago.

“She was down to pennies,” said Congdon, about the recipient.

The market also just received a $500 donation from the Farm Credit Corporation, which will go to those most in need.

“Any clients we can help during these months would be amazing. If we could do 10 through bridge funding, that would be fantastic,” she said.

Being involved in the program has helped Tattrie grow confidence in trying new recipes. It’s also seen her become a regular customer of the market.

“I have been able to try out and make more recipes using fresh ingredients that would not be in my weekly food budget normally,” she said. “I’ve been able to involve my children with the meal planning and helping me choose what new recipes we’re going to try. It’s been exciting and has given us things to look forward to in these scary and uncertain times.”

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Tattrie and her children would attend the market weekly for their produce. They’d then head to the library next door for books and to play on the slide or put together puzzles.

During the pandemic, however, Tattrie has moved to the market’s online shopping option. Her children help pick out the produce, which is collected weekly. During that pick-up, Tattrie still stops into the library for books and the take home craft kit for her children.

In the months the market bucks program isn’t offered, Tattrie tries to budget for fresh vegetables and fruit at the grocery store.

“But with a small food budget, it becomes hard to buy,” she said, adding fresh produce is often very expensive. Her mother will often pick up fresh fruit for Tattrie and the children when it’s on sale at the grocery store.

Congdon says they have statistics as to where the market bucks have been spent, with the majority going toward baked goods, fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs and meat.

For anyone interested in donating to the market bucks program, they can reach Margaret Congdon at the market in person, by calling the market at 902-843-4004, emailing trurofarmersmarket@gmail.com, or by sending a message on Facebook. A donation option will soon be available on the market’s online shop.

The market isn’t a registered charitable organization, so it doesn’t issue tax receipts.