The Kids Coupon program gives low income children of all ages $4 in farmers market tokens. These tokens are used to purchase fresh, local fruits and vegetables from a market. The produce is brought to their childcare center, school, or community. Children and families participate in nutrition education and food sampling. They receive recipes, shopping bags, and small kitchen items as part of their participation. The program is organized and operated by SNAP-Ed. Funding for the tokens are contributed by private donors.
WVU Extension Family Nutrition program has provided over 5,400 children across the state with vouchers to shop at a farmers market. Kids Farmers Markets have occurred at the following locations throughout West Virginia:
- Childcare Centers (18)
- Community Events (9)
- Farmers Markets (3)
- Health Center (1)
- Schools (21)
- Summer Feeding Site (1)
Giving Children Choices
The goal of the program is to encourage kids to try new fruits and vegetables by giving them the buying power to make their own choices. Parent feedback shows that the program is working.
“My child is one that never wants to try new foods. He was so happy to learn about new foods, and try them!! I appreciate this so much, and think it's a wonderful thing! Thank You!!”
Results from the parents’ survey found:
- 91% of parents reported their child ate the produce they purchased at the market.
- 77% of parents said their child was more excited about fruits and vegetables.
- 71% of parents said their child talked about fruits and vegetables more often.
Increase Capacity of WV Farmers
A secondary goal of the program is to increase capacity of West Virginia farmers, both directly and indirectly. Directly they are assisted through the token purchases. They are affected indirectly by increasing visibility of their operations with families in the community.
“Several kids, after they came to the market, had their parents bring them back. Some were looking for cucamelons. Others looked for pears and potatoes. It was a positive thing that the parents brought the kids with them.”
Farmers made $6,177 in sales in addition to tokens. Over $2,200 of those sales SNAP, WIC, and Senior Farmers Market purchases. Markets hosted at schools serve as an opportunity for school staff and child nutrition directors to meet farmers and sample products. At many markets, the schools and daycare centers purchased produce to be served with meals.
In 2018, over $76,000 in grants has been awarded to SNAP educators and partners to continue support for kids markets. The beauty of this program is that it is growing the capacity of the local food system while at the same time growing the future consumers.
This article was submitted by West Virginia University Extension, a SNAP-Ed agency. For more information, please contact Kristin McCartney.