MORGANTOWN — West Virginians who use SNAP benefits can now double or triple their dollars if they use them at their local farmer’s market. The West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition, WVU Extension Family Nutrition SNAP Education and West Virginia Farmers Market Association recently announced the launch of the “SNAP Stretch” initiative. SNAP will match these purchases dollar for dollar at participating farmer’s markets, roadside stands and Community Supported Agriculture farms.
Nineteen markets in 15 counties in West Virginia already started working with this program, including the Morgantown Farmers Market. Caitlin Diehl, market manager said the Morgantown Farmers Market has been involved with the Double Dollars program for a few months, and she already saw people utilize it to buy their produce. Diehl said the Morgantown Farmers Market got involved through funding.
Another part of the program is that children will receive an additional dollar for dollar match in “Kids Coupons.” Kids Coupons can only be spent by kids, giving them power to choose their own healthy fruits and vegetables. Diehl has not seen utilization of Kid’s Coupons as of yet, but she said it’s important to allow them to choose their own food because they learn importance of locally grown food and who and what is supports.
In a press release, WV Food & Farm Coalition Executive Director Spencer Moss said the project was fueled by the idea to give purchasing power to adults and children. Kid’s Coupons are a response to survey results from the 2017 WV Kids Pop-Up Market Program, which gave school and daycare children $4 in ‘Kids Coupons’ to buy fruits and vegetables of their choosing from onsite pop-up farmers markets.
“Parent survey results concluded that the majority of participating children ate almost all of the produce purchased with their ‘Kid Coupons’ because they had the power to choose. We’re grateful for our friends at WVU Extension Family Nutrition SNAP Education, as they are masterminds behind WV Kids Pop-Up Market Program,” Moss said.
Diehl said these programs benefit vendors by being able to sell more of their produce, and it benefits customers giving them the opportunity to purchase more food options, and allow for people to make healthier choices.
“Being able to get free extra money while purchasing an original amount of SNAP will definitely encourage people to make healthier choices,” she said.
She said she hopes to see more people utilize the farmers market, and so far, their numbers have been great.
“It’s good for the market because not only does it show that we care for our community, but it shows that we want them to be offered the same products and not feel left out because of financial issues,” she said.
SNAP Stretch is funded by community support, BB&T, Parkersburg Area Community Foundation, American Eye Foundation, and the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture Food Insecurity Nutrition Incen-tive program.