CARES Act funding sought to keep SNAP Stretch going in pandemic

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Funding for next year was in question even as those with the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition and others worked to secure additional money to keep the SNAP Stretch Program going for this year in the Mountain State.

SNAP Stretch doubles or triples federal benefits for SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or EBT, Electronic Benefits Transfer, when they’re used at farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets and local food retailers.

Spencer Moss

During about a six-week period earlier this year, the available $150,000 in funding was exhausted under dramatically heightened demand, according to Spencer Moss, executive director of the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition.

“There’s still a lot to go,” Moss said of the farmers market season that typically runs into October in the Mountain State.

In 2019, Moss said SNAP Stretch totaled about $53,000 at 20 sites.

The “stretched” benefits can be used to purchase local eggs, meat, dairy, vegetables and fruit.

This year, there have been more than 40 participating partners and many more customers.

“We could not have predicted what this demand was going to be this year,” Moss told MetroNews.

“Obviously, the need is there. Seniors utilize the program and, really, you see a lot of families that utilize the program as well.”

A request for an additional $300,000 in federal CARES Act money, Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, for 2020 was pending with Governor Jim Justice.

More than $1.2 billion was allocated to West Virginia earlier this year for pandemic relief.

If approved, that would be short-term funding.

For the long term, Moss said the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition was notified this month that it was not being awarded $500,000 in grant money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set up funding for SNAP Stretch beginning in 2021.

Moss said they would be pursuing other funding methods including private donations.

Along with the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, WVU Extension Family Nutrition SNAP Education and the West Virginia Farmers Market Association have been involved in SNAP Stretch.

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