The Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre undertook an extensive evaluation process to capture the impact of our 2021 Nourishing Communities Food Coupon Program. To read the full report, please click here! The Executive Summary can be found below.
The 2021 Nourishing Communities Food Coupon Program was the third iteration of a program that originally launched as a pilot in May 2019. This iteration – like the previous two – had three key objectives:
- To provide financial support to those in need to access healthy food, recognizing that Nova Scotia has the highest rate of food insecurity of any province in Canada.
- To provide an experience that supported physical, mental, and community health.
- To support local producers and farmers in developing a robust and resilient food system in Nova Scotia.
With continued funding support from the Nova Scotia government – and in-kind/administrative support from many other partners – FMNS distributed $264,210 worth of food coupons over an 8-month period to 547 households (an average of approximately $483.00 per household) across 27 markets, including all markets that participated during the first two years. These 27 markets were:
|Markets Continuing from Previous Years||New Markets for 2021|
|Antigonish Farmers’ Market||Annapolis Royal Farmers and Traders Market|
|Avon Community Farmers’ Market (Windsor)||Barrington Farmers’ Market|
|Bridgewater Farmers’ Market||Fairview Clayton Park Farmers’ Market|
|Cape Breton Farmers’ Market (Sydney)||Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market|
|Chester Farmers’ and Artisans Market||Hubbards Farmers’ Market|
|Halifax Brewery Farmers’ Market||Kentville Farmers’ Market|
|Lunenburg Farmers Market||Merigomish Marketplace|
|Mabou Farmers’ Market||Musquodoboit Harbour Farmers’ Market|
|New Glasgow Farmers’ Market||New Germany Farmers’ Market|
|Novalea Farmers’ Market (Halifax)||North Mountain Market (Harbourville)|
|Spryfield Farmers’ Market||Privateer Farmers’ Market (Liverpool)|
|Truro Farmers’ Market||Prospect Communities Farmers’ Market|
|Wolfville Farmers’ Market||Tatamagouche Farmers’ Market|
|Yarmouth Farmers’ Community Market|
By nearly any measure, the 2021 Nourishing Communities Food Coupon Program was a great success. Consider the following highlights:
- High redemption rates: Coupon redemption rates were extremely high, with 86.5% of all coupons being used. This figure remains consistent with the first and second iterations of the program (88.9% and 86% redemption rate, respectively). It should also be noted that several markets have once again granted permission for participants to redeem coupons after the program has officially ended, which is expected to increase the final redemption rate by a couple of percentage points.
- Healthy spending choices: Despite having no restrictions on how their coupons could be redeemed, participants overwhelmingly made healthy spending decisions on locally sourced food, demonstrating a clear need. More than 78% of all coupons redeemed were used directly towards the purchase of foods, which included produce, prepared foods, and other agri-food products (compared with an average of 84% during the first two years of the program). Almost one third (28%) of all redemptions were for produce.
- Engaged participants: 446 program participants (81% of all program participants) completed a survey at the beginning of the program to express their expectations. 273 participants (50% of all program participants) completed an exit survey at the conclusion of the program to evaluate their experience (results included within the report).
- Tangible benefits: When asked to evaluate the overall benefit of the program, 80% of respondents indicated that the program provided either ‘quite a bit of benefit’ or ‘an extreme amount of benefit’. A further 19% said the program offered ‘some benefit but not much’, and just 1% of respondents indicated they received no real benefit at all.
- Expanding social networks: 61% of participants indicated they made at least one new friend or social contact through their participation in the program. This is up somewhat from the first two years of the program (57% and 43%) and is encouraging given the social distancing protocols many participants were required to follow.
- Diversifying dietary choices: 88% of participants purchased foods that were not part of their diet previously.
- Learning new things about food and nutrition: 69% of participants learned something new about food and nutrition (down from 78% in 2019 but up from 65% in 2020).
- Expected long-term dietary changes: 61% of participants expect to make long-term changes to their diet because of their participation in this program (consistent with 62% and 50% in the first two years of the program).
- Affording previously inaccessible foods: 88% of participants – solely because of this program – purchased food(s) that were previously unaffordable to them (consistent with 90% and 92% during the first two years of the program).
- Increased sense of community belonging: 86% of participants report feeling a greater sense of belonging to their community because of their participation in this program. This is consistent with 85% during the pilot and 92% during the second year of the program.
- Eating healthier: 81% of participants reported eating healthier foods than usual during their participation in the program (down slightly from 87% and 85% in the first two years of the program).
- Freeing budgets to meet other needs: 88% of participants – as a result of this program – felt they had more money to meet their other (non-food/grocery) needs. This consistent with 85% and 94% during the first two years of the program.
- Good value for money: 91% of participants believe they received good value for their food bucks overall (down slightly from 97% during the pilot and 93% during year two).
- Spending time browsing and socializing: 41% of all respondents reported that they stayed at the market for more than 30 minutes each week, while an additional 39% said they stayed between 21-30 minutes. Only 20% of participants reported staying less than 20%.
- Making it a family outing: 52% of respondents either always or often attended the market with a family member or friend. About 36% of all respondents brought children under the age of 18. 31% of respondents either always or almost always attended the market by themselves.
- Extended reach of purchased foods: 73% of all respondents indicated that other people in their household regularly consumed products they purchased using food bucks. On average, participants regularly shared their purchased foods with 1.87 other people.
- The two greatest program benefits? When asked to rank (from a series of 8 choices) the two biggest benefits of the program, the two most popular choices were: ‘I had more money to meet my other non-food needs’ (48%) and ‘I ate healthier and/or had better quality food’ (44%).
- Injecting more money into the local economy: 63% of participants reported spending money during their market visits in addition to their food bucks. 36% of participants reported spending at least $10 of non-food bucks money per visit, on average. The average additional expenditure of all participants was $7.78 per visit.
- Economic impact – though not directly measured – is presumed to be significant. All coupons were redeemed for locally produced foods and goods, resulting in minimal economic leakage.
Participants were also presented with a series of 27 statements about their experience, and were simply asked to select those statements with which they agreed. While full tables can be seen in the appendices, here are 6 to consider:
- 79% of participants would – if given the opportunity – participate in the program again
- 65% indicated they ate more vegetables during their time participating in the program
- Notably, a full 50% of respondents indicated they would like to continue shopping at the farmers’ market after the program had finished, but felt they could not afford to
- 47% said the program ‘had a significant impact on my life’
- Only 5% of participants indicated that visiting the market was challenging or stressful
- 47% reported being more physically active during their participation in the program
In Their Own Words
In addition to these measures, participants from all 27 markets offered up glowing endorsements of the program. Here are several examples:
“I would say it completely changed my life. I am eating so much better and enjoying meal preparation and enjoying my meals, fresh local foods, organic grass fed meats, and it has impacted my health as I’m eating more nutritious food. Plus, it’s good to get out of isolation and meet new people. I feel like I belong here, after 6.5 years of feeling alone (no family here).”
“Get ready to try some of the best tasting and creative products ever. it is a win-win opportunity to be in a program that has a lot of benefits not just financially but nutritionally as well.”
“I’d strongly recommend this program. It is not shameful or pitiful to take on this program. Rather, it’s a great opportunity to teach their kids to choose healthier food and introduce them to other members in the community.”
“Makes you feel rich when you can tell your kid yes to something that may seem silly and expensive to us, but it can bring them such joy.”
“My advice is to walk around and talk to people. See what benefit the market can do for you. Community information including library and Kings theatre. I found out about free acting classes for my daughter; would never have known about that.”
“It was the most amazing program I’ve ever been a part of.”
“It was a great experience for my daughter and myself. Without the food bucks we wouldn’t have been able to go.”
“My oldest son, 3years old, loved to go and play with his new friends and listen to live music. Overall a great atmosphere. I also have built some wonderful connections with some of our frequently visited vendors and the market staff.”
“My favorite part was the freshness and taste of the meat and meat products. I have not had anything close to that from the stores ever. I spent some of my life living on a farm and I forgot how good farm raised meat was.”
“Letting the kids go wild with picking things out that they wanted to try or liked and getting it not having to worry that we didn’t have enough money for it.”
“I was able to feed my children healthy and fresh food! We enjoyed cooking and baking weekly together!”
“[…] It’s a great way to expand on your nutrition and try new things. Great way to involve the kids in making better choices and involving them to help select items and preparing them […] it is a wonderful way to feel connected to the community (especially for us where we have only lived here 2 years, it was a nice way to meet vendors and farmers and learn what access we have locally).”
With Nova Scotia boasting the highest number of farmers’ markets per capita in Canada, FMNS and its partners believe this program can be scaled up further and intend to continue this process in 2022. At the time of this writing (March 2022), FMNS has been successful in receiving further funding from the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism, and Heritage, which will allow the program to expand to at least 30 markets and over 600 households for 2022, while enabling the 2022 program to extend its season length for year-round farmers’ markets. FMNS intends to leverage this increased funding to seek additional sponsorships from individuals, non-profit organizations, and businesses, including the $50,000 it secured for 2022 from Second Harvest Food Rescue.
Ultimately, FMNS’ long-term intention is for the program to exist and expand as a hybrid model, where individuals, communities, governments, and organizations partner to provide necessary wrap-around support for individuals and families in need.
 Includes a $400,000 investment from Communities, Culture, Tourism, and Heritage (CCTH) Nova Scotia for the 2021 program, combined with a $10,000 investment from Second Harvest Food Rescue and $5,000 from Nourish Nova Scotia.
 547 households were comprised of: 155 individuals, 59 couples, and 333 families