Participation in SNAP Stretch—a program that allows customers using SNAP benefits to double or triple their spending power at West Virginia farmers markets and farm stands— has increased by more than 600 percent this year, largely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So far in 2020, the program has helped more than 2,000 West Virginia families.
Created by a partnership of the WVU Extension Service Family Nutrition Program and the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, the program allows SNAP users to receive another dollar to spend on locally grown produce for every dollar they spend. Shoppers older than 60 or who are accompanied by a child receive $2 for each dollar they spend.
The program’s $150,000 yearly budget was exhausted just halfway through the 2020 growing season. FNP and WVFFC are seeking an additional $300,000 to keep the program going through the rest of the year. Organizers hope to receive a portion of the $1.2 billion in federal CARES Act funding West Virginia received for COVID-19 relief. WVFFC is also reaching out to foundations and private donors to raise money.
Forty-two farm stands and farmers markets statewide participate in SNAP Stretch
Quotes and Comments
“It’s not that SNAP residents don’t want to shop at a farmers market. With the transportation challenges that many of them face, it is often much easier for them to do their shopping at a big box store. After all, farmers markets don’t carry toilet paper. So, it was necessary to give them more bang for their buck to make that special trip to the market worth their time and money.” — Kristin McCartney, Family Nutrition Program specialist and assistant professor, WVU Extension Service
“All of the initial funding for SNAP Stretch has come from foundations or from federal grants. It’s being subsidized and put back into the local economy.” — Kristin McCartney, Family Nutrition Program specialist and assistant professor, WVU Extension Service
“This helps support West Virginia farmers and build our local food economy. When folks use their SNAP or EBT cards at farmers markets, that money is staying here in the community. So that money is supporting West Virginia farmers and their families around the state.” — Matthew Thompson, West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition community placemaking and land access coordinator
"We are so excited to be able to offer SNAP Stretch for the first time in our market's history for the entire outdoor market. We’ve even had folks from Boone County, Lincoln County, I've even had a family from Philippi, West Virginia, which is hours away. It’s really amazing how this has been such a draw for people all over the region, being able to take part in our local food system." — Nichole Greene-Jenkins, Capitol Market executive director
“A lot of families around here are larger families. They can, freeze and preserve for winter. SNAP Stretch has been amazing because families have been using it to purchase extra vegetables and fruits to put away for dinner. This was a godsend for a lot of them." — Kim Metheny, owner of Matheny’s Farmers Market, Kingwood, West Virginia
"It was so busy for the first three weeks. And everyone was so excited. It has been the worst four days ever, having to see the look on their faces when we tell them we've had to pause.” — Kim Metheny, owner of Matheny’s Farmers Market, Kingwood, West Virginia
“We are writing a letter in support that the governor will see this is exactly what the CARES Act money is for — to help West Virginians suffering from a direct result of COVID. I don't know if there are too many places where it's more profound, when we see people having increased food insecurity because of COVID. This program is standing in the breach.” — Delegate Chad Lovejoy, Cabell County, member of House Hunger Caucus
CONTACT: Zack Harold
WVU Extension Service Family Nutrition Program
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