Stories of Successes Through SNAP Stretch
The anecdotes below help to paint a vivid picture of the power and reach of SNAP Stretch in West Virginia. All year long, the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition listen to and collect these stories of success, areas of challenge, and honest feedback from participating SNAP Stretch markets.
Every day I am embraced by customers extending thanks and praises to this amazing program. From seniors excited about being able to afford to add fresh fruits and vegetables to their food budget to families, many suffered various financial set backs during the pandemic, able to purchase more than enough food for their family. The wonderful staff at the WVFFC and the SNAP Stretch program have given my market such an amazing opportunity. Thanks to the increased sales I have been able to support so very many fellow farmers and give them the outlet to help move their products. We also were able to help our local high school AG program out by purchasing their vegetable plants left over when school finished. Cooler temperatures led to a later planting season and they didn’t have the staff to maintain the greenhouse. - Kim Stemple, owner of Metheny’s Farm Market
August was a tough month for us in terms of weather. We had 3 cancellations due to weather conditions, which only allowed us 2 weeks of the market. However, those 2 weeks were incredibly busy. Families continue to come out and utilize this program for fruits and veggies! We had an Olympic style game night with sack races, long jump, javelin toss, and more.
I am so proud of everyone who shows up each week, whether for shopping or selling. We have created a family fun epicenter in Garden Park, where we're encouraging healthy eating and living. We're promoting exercise. Allowing people to safely gather outdoors for live music. Shortening the food chain. All of this is good stuff and I'm so proud of those who help make the Warwood Farmers Market such a success!! -JulieAnne Davis, Warwood Farmers Market
"The customers that have used this program think it is too good to be true! Everyone loves it and believes it is a great way to help the community in the current times we are in!" -April Miller, Garden Fresh Farm Market
Oliver and his mom come to the market twice a week to buy their fresh fruits and vegetables for meals. Normally Oliver is my fruit loving friend who, as his mom says, “could eat watermelon and strawberries for every meal.” Today, however, Oliver was so excited about the first of the year sweet corn. Last year I told him a story about how when I was younger and picking sweet corn on the farm I would always shuck an ear back and eat it right off the cob in the corn field. As soon as he spotted the corn he remembered and asked his mom for some. We both peeled an ear back and sampled the super sweet corn at the market.
Our greatest successes: Continuing significant growth in both our SNAP/EBT dollars spent and our SNAP Stretch vouchers issued/redeemed. We now have regular customers who plan ahead for how to spend their SNAP and SNAP Stretch dollars to maximize their ability to feed their families healthy foods, so the continuing funding of this program allowed us to provide stability for these local families, as well as a more constant stream of income for our vendors. -Dana Hantel, Mountain People’s Cooperative, Inc.
"Connor has been to the market for weeks anxiously awaiting the arrival of watermelons. His mom said he made her cut it as soon as they were home and ate almost half the very first day!"
"Twila is a young teen with a passion for gardening! Her grandparents said she loves growing things and has expanded her garden almost double the size it was last year! Thanks to SNAP Stretch she was able to purchase lots of plants for her garden and get a voucher to redeem for fresh fruits and vegetables!"
The Fight for Funding
2020 was a record year for the SNAP Stretch program as COVID-19 shed a glaring light on food insecurity across the nation and especially in West Virginia. The program saw a 661% increase from the 2019 season and unfortunately had to be put on hold for a few months because all funding was exhausted. The West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition reached out to four farmers markets across the state to get a better understanding of the impact of SNAP Stretch on a personal and community level. These stories were used as we advocated for receiving CARES Act funding, which we ultimately received.