CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — The WV Food and Farm Coalition’s SNAP Stretch program allows for SNAP recipients to double their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program dollars at farmers markets and local grocers across the Mountain State. However, program coordinators say they are hoping to find more funding to continue to expand the program.
“SNAP Stretch is a way to make your SNAP dollars go further,” explained Matthew Thompson, community placemaking coordinator of West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition.. “We’ve seen the program explode because of the pandemic.”
So how does the program work? For every dollar spent using SNAP/EBT/P-EBT at a participating location, you’ll received a dollar in SNAP Stretch. Shoppers with children received ‘Kids Koupons’ at a 1:1 match and shoppers over 60 qualify for a 1:2 rate.
The program is currently implemented at over 30 farmers markets and local grocers across the state including, Capitol Market, The Wild Ramp, Out Wayne-First Friday’s Market and Left Fork Farmers Market in Wayne.
Shoppers using their SNAP benefits can buy fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat and fish and dairy products.
“This is very accessible for folks who may in general not have access to fresh food that they need — but especially in a time like COVID — we have seen this program explode,” Capitol Market Executive Director Nichole Green-Jenkins said.
While the program is beneficial to the shopper, it also helps the local businesses and farmers.
However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand has increased. This means more funding is now needed.
“We walked into this year with $150,000 of money and then COVID hit and we’ve almost given out all that money,” added Thompson.
Because the funding for the program is limited, there are just a few locations, including Capitol Market, that can still participate. But they are hoping to change that with a new proposal sent to Gov. Jim Justice.
“We need this program to continue and we need help,” Thompson said. “We’ve requested funding from the CARES Act. Also looking at other private donations from folks who want to see this program continue throughout the rest of 2020.”
CARES Act funding is possible because there’s still $1.2 billion in federal assistance to the state that Justice has yet to allocate. Proponents say this is important not only for those using their SNAP benefits but also for participating local farmers and businesses.
“It drives that economic development for the farmers and provides nutrition and an additional way of safety for our customers with less people touching their food that they are providing to local citizens,” said Bethany Lewis with West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition.