Commercial fishermen grateful for food voucher program

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Commercial fishermen in Mississippi and Louisiana still struggling to feed their families after the BP oil spill now have a little help getting food on the table. A new program called MarinersMatch provides vouchers to families to spend at farmers markets including three markets right here in South Mississippi.

Frank Parker is a commercial fisherman with a wife, two kids and one on the way. He says when shopping for food, he looks for ways to stretch his dollars.

"Fishermen, we've been having a tough time with the oil spill," said Parker. "Some of us got to work. Some of us didn't. The shrimp season has been mediocre."

The MarinersMatch program is giving fishermen $40 in tokens to shop at Real Food Gulf Coast fresh markets in Ocean Springs, Long Beach, and Bay St. Louis.

Diane Claughton is the founder of Real Food Gulf Coast.

"It's $40 a market so if you came to Bay St. Louis on Thursdays and got $40, you could spent it there," said Claughton.

"Then you could come and get $40 here. You can spend the tokens at any of the six participating markets. The three in New Orleans and the three on the Mississippi Gulf Coast."

Fishermen and their families say they appreciate the help.

"I think it's a good idea and we appreciate them for thinking about the fishermen, the shrimpers," Thanh Nguyen, the wife of a fisherman.

Parker said, "What else is better for you than fresh vegetables, fruit and stuff like that and they're kind of expensive in the stores so if we can come with these vouchers, I think it's great."

Organizers say the voucher program will run until the end of the year or until the funding runs out but hopefully the markets and the fishermen will form a lasting bond.

"We also hope that they'll see the benefits of selling direct to the public," said Claugton. "If they come to the market they will see that there is a customer base here for direct sales from small producers and hopefully fishermen as well. "

MarinersMatch is a joint project of Wholesome Wave and MarketUmbrella.

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