KERMIT, W.Va – CSX and The Conservation Fund have teamed up for a second year with the West Virginia’s Department of Agriculture and local organizations to promote healthy eating habits and increased access to local produce for hundreds of children and families in McDowell, Roane and Mingo counties.
The program is providing coupons to help make locally-grown fresh foods more convenient for purchase, financial assistance for mobile and school-based farmers markets, and nutrition and healthy eating classes. New this year, classes will also be held on vendor recruitment, customer service and basic accounting to assist with the long-term viability of the farmers markets.
Throughout the summer and fall, children and their parents in McDowell and Roane County can shop for local produce using “Kids Koupons” and participate in food tastings and nutritional demonstrations at farmers market events at their local schools. Families with children who use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollars will receive double the amount of healthy food vouchers for every dollar spent at the markets on healthy food. Around 250 children from each county will receive the vouchers.
Through additional program funds, farmers markets will team up with the federal SNAP to provide cooking demonstrations and distribute recipes and information on cooking, storing and preparing fresh, seasonal food. This will provide opportunities for kids to sample and become familiar with how to prepare new foods, so that the families can learn healthy recipes and incorporate them into their normal eating habits. Mobile markets in Mingo County will also bring fresh fruits and vegetables to residents in eight communities through Farm Fresh 4U.
“This summer we have already reached over 100 families in Mingo County with our Farm Fresh 4U Voucher program,” said Maria Arnot, Director of Community Agriculture with Mingo County Diabetes Coalition. “Also this year, we have started a double bucks incentive program that will encourage families to use their SNAP benefits at our mobile farmers markets. By matching what they spend up to $10, we hope to gain and retain customers.”
The Conservation Fund works with West Virginians by protecting natural resources, which in turn support local economies and business owners and improve the lives of residents.
“The overall health and well-being of our children is directly affected by what they eat, and for many low income families in food deserts, healthy options are oftentimes simply out of reach,” said Kris Hoellen, Senior Vice President of Sustainable Programs for The Conservation Fund. “By expanding access to fresh produce and giving children opportunities to shop, taste and learn how food goes from the farm to the table, we’re creating markets for local farmers, and most importantly giving children and their families the opportunity for a long-term healthy lifestyle. We’re proud to partner with CSX in this important and impactful program.”
As one of the nation’s premier transportation companies, with an important role in transporting agricultural and food-service products, CSX recognizes that there are communities across its network that lack the fresh foods that are essential for human health.
“Our partnership with The Conservation Fund has helped us create actionable, solution oriented programs – like the Kids Koupons – to address the critical issues facing the communities where we live and work,” said Randy Cheetham, regional vice president for state government and community affairs, CSX. “West Virginia is an important piece of the CSX network, so we’re especially proud to be able to have programs like this to give back to the state that has supported our success with its businesses and skilled employees.”
This program is part of a broader effort between CSX and The Conservation Fund to improve Americans’ access to fresh, healthy food. The partnership also created The Grant Program for Transporting Healthy Food, which aims to help improve delivery capabilities of fresh produce and perishable food to farmers markets and communities in need. Charitable entities in 22 states can apply for a grant through September 18. More information is available at http://www.conservationfund.org/partner-with-us/business/csx. A video on the program can also be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylHWcX70hWY&feature=youtu.be