FARMacy is a weekly program where doctors “prescribe” fresh, healthy, locally grown foods to food-insecure patients with chronic diet-related diseases.
Doctors identify patients who struggle with food security and whose medial conditions would benefit from dietary changes. Then they provide a “prescription” entitling patients to free weekly bags of fruits and vegetables from pop-up farmers markets held at their doctor’s office or clinic. Farmers are on hand at those markets to talk about produce and WVU Extension Service Family Nutrition Program (FNP) nutrition educators provide taste-tests, recipe demonstrations, recipe handouts, opportunities for physical activity and nutrition education classes.
The original FARMacy program started in 2014 at a clinic in Wheeling. Nine FARMacy programs now operate at hospitals and clinics around West Virginia. Eight of those are new for 2020, funded by a $658,000 Walmart Foundation grant that is helping FNP expand its programming to 10 West Virginia counties — Barbour, Boone, Cabell, Greenbrier, Lincoln, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Roane and Upshur.
Also known as the “Kids Coupon” program, the Kids Farmers Market is a project from the WVU Extension Service Family Nutrition Program dedicated to supplying low income schools, child care centers and communities with access to fresh, local fruit and vegetables. The program has been funded through a grant from the Eye Foundation of America.
Markets are brought to different locations for easy accessibility and each child receives $4 in farmers market vouchers to purchase different produce from local farmers. Children and their families can sample the products, learn more about proper nutrition and get to go home with recipes, reusable shopping bags and small kitchen items.
The market encourages children to try different fruits and vegetables and begin a healthy lifestyle from a young age.
SNAP Stretch, a program created through a partnership between the WVU Extension Service Family Nutrition Program and the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, allows customers using SNAP benefits to double or triple their spending power at 42 farmers markets and farm stands around West Virginia. For every dollar purchased with a SNAP/EBT card, the customer receives another dollar to spend on locally grown produce. If shoppers are over the age of 60 or are accompanied by a child, they receive an additional $2 for every dollar spent.
A 2020 grant from the Walmart Foundation allowed SNAP Stretch to expand into six additional counties. The grant funding also allowed markets to purchase EBT card readers, if they did not already have them. This alone will make markets more accessible for shoppers using WIC, senior vouchers, and credit and debit cards.
Due to overwhelming demand in 2020, likely created by the COVID-19 global pandemic, SNAP Stretch’s $150,000 budget was exhausted by July — just halfway through the growing season. The program was able to restart in October 2020 thanks to $100,000 in CARES Act funding, which came from Gov. Jim Justice’s office at the request of West Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt.
farm to food pantry
Many of West Virginia’s food pantries lack the resources and cold storage capacity to offer patrons fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables—causing them to rely on shelf-stable, prepackaged foods that can be of lower nutritional quality and value.
Funded by a generous grant from the Walmart Foundation, the Farm-to-Food Pantry program provides cold storage units to two pantries in 10 counties: Barbour, Boone, Cabell, Greenbrier, Lincoln, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Roane and Upshur. This will increase the pantries’ ability to provide fresh food to patrons. Family Nutrition Program also helps pantries develop plans to increase the nutritional value of the foods they offer and promotes increased use of these foods among patrons by providing recipe demonstrations, taste tests and nutrition education programs.