A cart holding fruits and vegetables, where kids can "shop" (for free) as part of the Kids Market @ The Store program.
The popular Kids Market @ The Store program is expanding for summer 2023, offering free fruits and vegetables to 3,200 families at local retailers in 26 West Virginia counties.
The program, now in its third year, is offered by the West Virginia University Extension Family Nutrition Program.
“With food prices always on the rise, we expect Kids Market @ The Store to be more popular than ever,” WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program Public Health Specialist and Assistant Professor Kristin McCartney said. “And not only will it save families money, but it’s a great way to get kids involved in the shopping process. We’ve found that if they pick out the vegetables, they’re more likely to eat them.”
Kids Market @ The Store is open to all children ages 2 to 17 and allows kids to “shop” for free fruits and vegetables at participating retail locations. Each family receives $30 in tokens, which children spend at the store’s Kids Market @ The Store display.
At the checkout, store clerks place a sticker in the child’s Kids Market @ The Store passport. This allows families to track which foods they’ve tried throughout the program. They can mail back their passports at the end of the program for WVU-themed prizes.
“We’ve heard so many stories from families who participated in previous years, telling us how much their kids enjoyed Kids Market @ The Store,” McCartney said. “One mom now gives her son a vegetable allowance, so he can try new foods every time they go shopping.”
Kids Market @ The Store launched as a two-county pilot program in 2021, before expanding to serve 1,600 families in 16 counties in 2022.
In 2023, the program will be available in the following counties: Barbour, Cabell, Clay, Doddridge, Fayette, Grant, Hardy, Harrison, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Monongalia, Monroe, Morgan, Ohio, Pleasants, Pocahontas, Preston, Putnam, Ritchie, Tyler, Upshur and Wood.
Families aren’t the only ones who benefit from this program — it’s also good for West Virginia’s agriculture industry. This year, Kids Market @ The Store will pay West Virginia growers $138,000 for their fresh fruits and vegetables, thanks in part to grants from Save the Children and the Sisters Health Foundation, as well as individual gifts collected during the WVU Day of Giving in March.
The program also benefits retailers. Participating businesses have reported increased business, as adults often make purchases when their children come to pick up their free food. The Family Nutrition Program is still working to identify partner stores for all counties. More stores will be added in coming weeks.
To sign up, click here to fill out a short survey: https://wvu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_7ZDsUFsohDDRcJ8
WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program’s work is supported by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
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