West Virginia ranks 4th in the United States for inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption and 9 out of 10 West Virginia adults suffer increased health risks as a result. Children generally rely on adults to provide access to healthy foods and often model behaviors seen at home. The kids’ farmers market program, implemented by the WVU Extension Service, increases access to a variety of fresh produce for elementary students. It also supports locally sourced foods by purchasing all produce from West Virginia farmers. This program has reached over 51,000 kids across all 55 West Virginia counties and purchased over $174,000 in produce from WV farmers since 2014.
The project is a collaborative program across program units that was originally developed as the Kids Koupon project in McDowell County WV, one of the most economically disadvantaged areas in the nation from a grant by the Conservation Fund/CSX. It’s now implemented statewide through grants from TC Energy, Sisters Health Foundation and other funding. These markets offered in schools, community centers, day cares and other sites provide nutritional information in a fun way and allow the low-income students and families to shop for produce purchased from local farmers with "kids koupons". Follow up surveys of 980 parent surveys indicate 97% of children ate the produce purchased, 87% were more excited about fruits and vegetables afterward, and 87% were willing to purchase more produce because of the program. Follow up surveys of participating farmers indicated that 56% were interested in working on a gardening program with the school, 61% were interested in selling products directly to the school or childcare center and 72% were interested in piloting a CSA to the school or childcare center. This program expands every year and is now being replicated in at least two other states.