In West Virginia, one in five children does not have reliable access to sufficient food—especially healthy food—due to factors such as limited financial resources and lack of transportation.
CSX and The Conservation Fund are working to improve food security in these at-risk communities through a program that provides increased access and funding for healthy foods for hundreds of children and families living below the poverty line in five of the state’s lowest-income counties: Calhoun, McDowell, Mingo, Roane, and Wirt.
CSX, a provider of rail-based transportation services, and The Conservation Fund, a national non-profit dedicated to finding conservation solutions that balance environmental and economic needs, teamed up to provide vouchers to children that can be redeemed at local farmers markets for fresh fruits and vegetables.
West Virginia Department of Agriculture Communications Director Buddy Davidson visited the Falls River Elementary School mobile farmers market in McDowell County recently to see firsthand how the voucher program benefits local children and families.
Throughout the five counties, the vouchers are being distributed by libraries, elementary schools, and summer programs like Energy Express, an award-winning summer reading and nutrition program. Families in Mingo County will also be able to use the vouchers at a mobile farmers market, which will visit seven communities within the county to help those without access to transportation. In McDowell County, some children will be able to redeem their vouchers right at their school. One thousand children from each county will receive vouchers this summer and autumn.
Along with four elementary schools in McDowell County, these markets are already in the voucher program:
•Amma Farmers Market
•Spencer Farmers Market
•Calhoun County Farmers Market
•Grantsville Farmers Market
•Elizabeth Farmers Market
•Williamson Farmers Market
Through additional funding from the program, these farmers markets will team up with the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to provide cooking demonstrations and distribute recipes and information on cooking, storing and preparing fresh, seasonal food.
This program is part of a broader effort between CSX and The Conservation Fund to improve Americans’ access to fresh, healthy food. More than 23 million Americans across the nation have limited or no access to fresh produce, dairy, meats, and seafood. One of the contributors to these so-called “food deserts” is the lack of infrastructure to distribute fresh food to markets. More information and the grant application is available here.
To learn more about The Conservation Fund’s efforts in West Virginia, access www.conservationfund.org.
A video on the program can be viewed here.