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Kids Market @ The Store provides free food for families while strengthening the local food economy

A Kids Market @ The Store carts filled with fresh fruits and vegetables.

The popular Kids Market @ The Store program is expanding for summer 2024, offering free fruits and vegetables to over 3,800 families at 61 local retailers in 35 West Virginia counties. 

The program, now in its fourth year, is offered by the West Virginia University Extension Family Nutrition Program

“It’s heartening to see interest in Kids Market @ The Store continue to grow year after year,” Kristin McCartney, WVU Extension Assistant Professor and SNAP-Ed Coordinator, said. “Not only does this save families money on groceries, but it helps them put more fresh food on the table –– and gets kids involved in the shopping process. If kids pick out the vegetables, we’ve found they are more likely to eat them.” 

Kids Market @ The Store accepts children ages 2 to 17, providing them an opportunity to “shop” for free fruits and vegetables at participating retail locations. Families sign up through an online form, then receive up to $60 in tokens for their kids to spend at the store’s Kids Market @ The Store display. Families also receive education and support from Family Nutrition Program educators through social media and email newsletters.  

Last year, Kids Market @ The Store saw a 19% increase in participating children who ate more than two cups of fruits and vegetables per day. Parents reported 21% of kids were more willing to taste fruits and 25% were more willing to try new vegetables. 

Cherry Clay, a mother of three in Greenbrier County, signed her kids up for Kids Market @ The Store after seeing it on Facebook. 

Her six-, five- and three-year-old picked out cabbage, zucchini, apples, strawberries, blueberries, yellow squash and tomatoes at Tri County Produce in Ronceverte.  

“They have enjoyed it a great deal. They used the last of their tokens yesterday, so they’re going to miss doing it,” Clay said.   

A Kids Market @ The Store passport, an "I Love Vegetables" book, and Kids Market tokens.

When families sign up for Kids Market @ The Store, they receive tokens to spend at their local retailer, a "passport" and a copy of "I Love Vegetables." ZACK HAROLD / WVU

She signed her family because it was a good opportunity for her kids to learn math and money skills, while trying new vegetables.  

“I let them pick out anything they wanted. My middle daughter got a red pepper because she thought it was pretty. We washed it and she tried it –– and she didn’t like it. But I chopped it up and put it in the freezer so I can use it later,” Clay said. 

On a more positive note, Clay used the zucchini her kids purchased to make zucchini bread, which her son enjoyed. 

Because Kids Market @ The Store allows kids to shop for free, Clay said she can encourage her kids to experiment with new foods without worrying about her budget. 

“We are a family of five, so it takes some finagling,” Clay said. 

Over a third of Kids Market @ the Store participants reported being food insecure. 

But families aren’t the only ones who benefit from this program. Kids Market @ The Store also benefits retailers.  

The program partners with locally owned stores around the state, many of which don’t usually carry fresh produce. This year, Kids Market @ The Store provided refrigerators to 18 stores in 14 counties, allowing them to stock fruits and vegetables for the summer program and beyond. 

“Most of these retailers had little to no refrigerator space in their stores,” said Jess Toon, rural grocer network coordinator with the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition, who partnered with the Family Nutrition Program to purchase the coolers. “Some of these sites have never offered fresh food before.”  

Providing these retailers with refrigerators means they can now carry produce as well as other fresh food items, like dairy and meat. Toon said that increases food availability for all their clientele, not just Kids Market @ The Store participants. 

“I think it’s something people don’t think about, how important a refrigerator is and how limiting it is not to have one,” Toon said. “This cold storage opens up an opportunity for these stores to serve their communities in a brand-new way.” 

Participating stores have also reported an increase in overall sales, as parents pick up additional items while their children shop for fruits and vegetables. 

Kids Market @ the Store also benefits West Virginia’s agriculture industry. This year, the program will pay West Virginia growers around $80,000 for their fresh fruits and vegetables, thanks in part to grants from the Benedum Foundation, Save the Children, Sisters of St. Joseph and the Sisters Health and Wellness Foundation.  

Kids Market @ The Store launched as a two-county pilot program in 2021. It expanded in 2022 to serve 100 families in 16 counties. Last year, over 5,000 families in 24 counties participated in the program.  

In 2024, the program will be available in the following counties: Barbour. Braxton, Cabell, Doddridge, Fayette, Greenbrier, Harrison, Jackson, Kanawha. Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Marshall, McDowell, Mineral, Mingo, Monroe, Morgan, Ohio, Pleasants, Pocahontas, Preston, Putnam, Raleigh, Ritchie, Roane, Tucker, Tyler, Upshur, Wayne, Wetzel, Wirt, Wood and Wyoming. 

The program is no longer enrolling families for 2024. Funding is limited, and all available slots are filled. 

For more information about Kids Market @ The Store and other Family Nutrition Program initiatives, follow along on Facebook at

WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program’s work is supported by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. 







Zack Harold 

Multimedia Specialist 

WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program 


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