Walking through the Bedford Farmers’ Market Wednesday morning, Bob Fisher shopped for tomatoes, some fruit, and a few baked goods. As an army veteran, he qualified for vouchers to help purchase the farm-fresh groceries. While he says Bedford does a good job of recognizing veterans in general, the voucher program is especially useful. “It’s nice getting something back for the time I served.”
George and Janet Cuppett came from Alum Bank to use their vouchers for fresh tomatoes. They think it’s pretty nice that they can do that.
John Colledge used the vouchers while visiting Bedford from Arizona. “Anytime the veterans are honored, it’s meaningful,” he said.
Every week, veterans can pick up $5 worth of vouchers to spend however they’d like at the Bedford Farmers’ Market. Starting June 7th, families can bring children to get vouchers, too.
Farmers’ Market Manager Gwen Querry started the program last year with a few hundred dollars, funded by a handful of local businesses and the VFW. This year, she’s been able to expand the program through a $1,000 grant through the Community Foundation, supplemented by the Hyndman Health Center and an anonymous donor, for a total of $850 available to children and $650 for veterans.
“It’s a win-win,” says Gwen. “It helps the community and it helps vendors. It puts money back into the farmers while providing healthy foods to veterans and children.”
Children, especially, are more inclined to eat fruits and vegetables that they’ve picked out themselves. And everyone is more willing to try something new if they have help paying for it.
“It’s helpful because people are more willing to spend free money on something they haven’t tried before,” says Taste of Heaven Farm owner Joelle Bowser. Joelle says the voucher program draws out a more diverse crowd than the one she usually sees week after week. She welcomes the new faces.
“The Community Foundation has long supported programs that encourage better health, help small businesses, and recognize our region’s veterans,” says CFA President Mike Kane. “This was a great idea that achieves multiple goals and is well executed.”
Hopefully, it’s an idea that will continue to grow, along with Bedford’s farm to table movement, and the area’s many small farms.
For more information about the program, or how you can help, contact Gwen Querry: firstname.lastname@example.org / (814) 977-3540