Morgantown, W.Va.— West Virginia youths at select schools, day care centers and community events can shop for fresh produce through the West Virginia University Extension Service Kids Koupons program during National Farmers Market Week, celebrated Aug. 6 to 12.
Thanks to a grant from the Eye Foundation of America, the school-based farmers market voucher program offers kids buying power by providing them with “kids koupons” to spend on fruits and vegetables available at school farmers markets.
According to WVU Extension Service public health specialist Kristin McCartney, the program is a way to expose kids to new, healthy options often unavailable to them at home.
“Children develop food preferences by observing adult role models consuming healthy foods, which aren’t always the most affordable or accessible,” said McCartney. “When there aren’t any fruits and vegetables in the home, there is less of a chance kids will choose them later in life— but we’re trying to change that.”
Several of the farmers markets will be held during National Farmers Market Week, an annual celebration sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture that highlights the role farmers markets play in the nation’s food system.
The Kids Koupons program addresses recent research from the ongoing Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System that ranks West Virginia as fourth in the nation for number of adults that eat less than one fruit or vegetable daily, a major risk factor for high rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease in the Mountain State.
“It’s all about changing the cycle of eating behaviors by exposing children to new, healthy options,” said McCartney. “If we teach them about healthy food and balanced meals at a young age, we hope they’ll take those lessons home with them and inspire change in the household.”
The WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program, local farmers, eligible elementary schools, daycares, community organizations and WVU Extension agents are collaborating to execute the program, which is exclusive to schools with at least 50 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced lunches or areas of the state with high levels of poverty. During its first two pilot years in two West Virginia counties, more than 1,000 students and 379 families received over $14,000 in Kids Koupons.
Enabling youths to purchase fruits and vegetables also helps local farmers, as additional revenue of over $10,000 was reported.
“While our main goal is to increase accessibility to fruits and vegetables for kids in West Virginia, the project also has a positive impact throughout the entire community,” said McCartney. “We’re teaching children to change consumption patterns by choosing healthier options, directly impacting small farms and potentially resulting in growth of local agriculture.”
While several markets will be held during National Farmers Market Week, the program will also host events at community daycares and elementary schools through September. Scheduled farmers markets at select schools include:
- Beverly Bookmobile, Beverly—Tuesdays July 18-Aug. 8, 2-6 p.m.
- Charleston Childcare & Learning Center and Zion Child Development Center—Tuesdays Aug. 1-Sept., 10-11:30 a.m.
- Kenova Playmates, Kenova—Aug. 7, 3-6 p.m.
- Westmoreland Playmates, Huntington—Aug. 8, 3-6 p.m.
- King’s Daughter Day Care, Wheeling—Aug. 8, 2-6 p.m.
- Welch Elementary, Welch—Aug. 12, TBA
- Williamson Farmers Market, Williamson—Aug. 12, 6-9 p.m.
- Valley Health WIC Center, Wayne—Aug. 15, TBA
- Glen Dale Child Development Center, Glen Dale—Aug. 15, 2-6 p.m.
- Top Tots Enrichment Center, Culloden—Date TBA
- New River Elementary, Oak Hill—Early September, TBA
- Sharon Dawes Elementary, Miami—Thursdays Aug. 24-Sept. 28, 2:15-3:30 p.m.
- Big Otter Elementary, Duck—Last week of August, 1:30-3 p.m.
- HE White Community School, Bomont—Last week of August, 1:30-3 p.m.
For additional question about the program or upcoming Kids Koupons farmers markets in your area, contact Kristin McCartney at Kristin.McCartney@mail.wvu.edu or 304-356-1310.
The WVU Extension Service is a primary outreach division of West Virginia University. With offices in each of the state’s 55 counties, Extension faculty and staff develop and deliver programs in leadership, rural and community-based economic development, youth development, workforce development and health education.
CONTACT: Brittany Dick, WVU Extension Service Writer/Editor, 304.293.8701, Brittany.Dick@mail.wvu.edu
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