People and programs 04/12/2021 “We now eat a lot more vegetables. Both of my kids are hooked on salads—they have a salad at almost every meal now.” That’s what Brittany, a mom of two in Midland, ON, told us after participating in Community Food Centres Canada’s Market Greens program. And the uptick in vegetables isn’t only with this family. More than 300 families in Midland and Stratford have now taken part in this pilot program, created to help low-income families with young children access fresh, local fruits and vegetables. The pilot wrapped up recently, with some impressive results: 98% of participants said the program helped them eat more fruits and vegetables. Children involved were eating two more servings of fruits and vegetables per day. 67% of participants, and 75% of their children, tried new fruit and vegetables. 86% of participants using the market were always able to get the fruits and vegetables that they wanted to eat. How Market Greens works The program works by providing participants $10 to $20 in Market Greens Dollars every week for five months, and offering healthy eating resources like recipes and food preparation tips. For Brittany, who was out of work and struggling to get by on social assistance, those Market Green Dollars went a long way: “Trying to allocate money when I wasn’t working was really hard. We had all of these other expenses, and I found myself wondering how much money I could put towards vegetables all the time.” She could redeem the amount at Chigamik Community Health Centre’s Miijim Market, where fruits and vegetables are available to community members all year round at a wholesale price. But Market Greens is about more than just access: it’s also about health promotion. Research shows that fruit and vegetable subsidies can instill long-term healthy eating habits. The findings of the pilot program echoed this: 72% of participants changed the way they shopped for fruits and vegetables. And 64% noticed that their kids were more interested in eating or cooking fruits and vegetables, even after the program ended. A key goal of the program is to make sure that people can keep up with those changes in the long run, because that’s what makes the biggest difference to people’s food confidence and choices. Making healthy food more accessible across the country In 2020, Market Greens expanded to 15 more communities across the country. From Katzie First Nation and Fraser Health in British Columbia to the North End Community Health Centre in Nova Scotia, partners are making the program come alive in their communities. The expanded program now also includes Greens prescriptions. These are “medications” prescribed by healthcare practitioners—in the form of fruits and vegetables—to promote health in community members more vulnerable to diet-related conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. The prescriptions can be “filled” at the wholesale markets. Studies in the US have shown that eating more fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy lifestyle decreases the risk of developing diabetes by as much as 58% and can improve bloodwork for those with diabetes, a marker of disease severity and potential complications. As Brittany noted after her experience with the program: “It helped my family a lot, and I think it would benefit a lot of other people.” Learn more about the Market Greens program.