HUNTINGTON - With several special programs to increase access to healthy, fresh and locally produced foods for low-income families, senior citizens and single parents, farmers markets throughout the state are making efforts to expand services and engage as many residents as possible.
Such programs include SNAP Stretch for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program users, senior vouchers in all 55 counties and a WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program for young parents.
There are currently 29 farmers markets throughout the state in the process of accepting SNAP Stretch, which allows users of electronic benefits transfer cards to receive double, triple and sometimes even quadruple credit for fresh produce with each purchase at participating markets.
One market participating in each of the three programs is The Wild Ramp, a year-round market located in Huntington's Central City Market.
The Wild Ramp also features a much more unique program, called the Mobile Market, aimed at encouraging even more community engagement.
The Mobile Market travels, by schedule, to several locations in the Huntington area to provide residents who struggle with financial barriers or mobility issues further access to local, fresh produce, said Kelsey Abad, market manager at The Wild Ramp.
From June through September, the market will make regular stops at Cabell Huntington Hospital, Heritage Station, Marcum Terrace, Highlawn Huntington First Church of the Nazarene and Highlawn Community of Grace United Methodist Church.
"We're really trying to use the Mobile Market as a way to engage with those populations that struggle for access, whatever access means for them," Abad said.
Wild Ramp shoppers can also utilize their SNAP benefits and SNAP Stretch tokens while shopping at the Mobile Market, and there are no limits on the amount of tokens that can be earned by shoppers, she said. For every dollar spent on an EBT card, shoppers receive an additional dollar in SNAP Stretch tokens and another for bringing along a child.
"You could spend $5 on your EBT card or you could spend $100 on your EBT card, and you will get that amount in tokens, plus more for kids," Abad said.
SNAP Stretch is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and support from local groups like the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, WVU Extension SNAP Education and the West Virginia Farmers Market Association.
A list of farmers markets throughout West Virginia and the programs they participate in can be found online at https://farmfreshwv.com/west-virginia-farmers-market-finder-2/.
A schedule for The Wild Ramp's Mobile Market can be found online at http://wildramp.org/mobile-market/.