The West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition has announced the participation of the Barbour County Community Garden Market of Philippi in the SNAP Outreach Pilot Program, beginning this month.
The program aims to improve access to healthy, locally produced food through active promotion and incentive programs targeted specifically at Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit users.
The SNAP Outreach Pilot Program's goal is to promote greater participation in farmers markets by SNAP benefit recipients. By launching the program at several markets across the state, the Food and Farm Coalition hopes to not only promote healthier nutrition for all West Virginia families, but also stimulate local economies. The recent increase in farmers markets across the state and the sales growth experienced by these markets indicate a strong economic opportunity; by encouraging the use of these markets by SNAP benefit recipients, the Food & Farm Coalition hopes to see more of the $468.68 million of SNAP funds distributed within West Virginia redeemed at local farmers markets within the state.
With the combined efforts of the Food and Farm Coalition, supported by the McDonough Foundation and the dedicated members of the Food Access Working Group, it is expected that the pilot program will be successful in its mission. The Barbour County Community Garden Market, a community ministry sponsored by Heart and Hand House Inc., will receive funding from the SNAP Outreach Program to be used toward incentives and advertising to encourage SNAP recipients to redeem their benefits at local markets.
The Barbour County Community Garden Market is celebrating its 20th season. The past three seasons, the market has been accepting SNAP benefits and EBT. Through the pilot program and incentive period, the market hopes to see an increase in awareness about SNAP acceptance within the community.
"While we have accepted SNAP for a few years now, we really hope that this extra promotion will help us reach out to more people in the community and raise awareness that the fresh, local produce we offer is available to everyone," said Brenda Hunt, executive director of Heart and Hand House.
At the Community Garden Market, this extra incentive will come in the form of a dollar-for-dollar matching program for SNAP EBT users, allowing each participant to double the value of their SNAP dollars at the market. As further encouragement, the market offers unique recipes each week based upon the produce in stock, as well as knowledgeable volunteers who are eager to answer the questions of market shoppers.
"More than anything, we want this program to educate participants and their families that by spending their SNAP benefits at farmers markets, they play an important role in the local economy and are helping their community support itself," Hunt said.
Several other markets throughout the state also are participating in the SNAP Outreach Pilot Program during the summer. West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition Program Manager Savanna Lyons hopes that the results of the program will lead to continuing success in following years.
"Many SNAP customers don't realize that they can use their benefits at over 17 farmers markets around the state," Lyons said. "With this pilot project, we are testing out a few different ways of encouraging people to use their SNAP benefits at markets, and we'll use what we learn to help other markets do a better job with their outreach. The Community Garden Market has shown great leadership in this effort."
The Barbour County Community Garden Market is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from the beginning of March until the end of October. The market is located at 309 S. Main St. in Philippi, near the fire house.
More information about the Community Garden Market is available at 304-457-5774 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about the SNAP Outreach Pilot Program is available at 304-566-7332 or by emailing email@example.com.