Healthy Food Distribution Initiative

Through a voucher program launched in 2014, libraries, elementary schools and summer programs like Energy Express—an award-winning summer reading and nutrition program for children living in West Virginia’s rural and low-income communities—distributed vouchers for children and families to purchase fresh, local produce. Families in Mingo County were also be able to use the vouchers at a mobile farmers market, which visited seven communities within the county to help those without access to transportation. In McDowell County, children were able to redeem their vouchers right at their school. 

The program also provided grants to local farmers markets to help them build capacity, improve infrastructure and expand their reach to families who are food insecure through hands-on educational tools like cooking demonstrations, recipes and tips for storing, cooking, and preparing fresh and seasonal food. Kids had the opportunity to sample and become familiar with a variety of fruits and vegetables, so that they could begin to incorporate these new foods into their eating habits, while their parents learned how to prepare the healthy options in new and delicious ways.

Most recently, CSX and The Conservation Fund have focused on making healthy food a sustainable option in the communities. Additional grants from CSX helped purchase two freeze dryers to extend the shelf life of local produce and a pickup truck to make transport of the mobile farmers market more efficient. Students in the McDowell County Vocational School’s culinary program are incorporating freeze drying into their curriculum, exposing them to entrepreneurial opportunities around its potential for extending the shelf life of perishable food. In addition, freeze dried fruit from the vocational program is distributed to elementary school students as part of their nutritional education to introduce them to a different way of eating and preserving healthy food. In Mingo County, the pickup truck greatly improved the efficiency of the mobile farmers market in 2016, enabling the addition of a new stop at a senior center. 


This program is part of a broader effort between CSX and The Conservation Fund to improve access for Americans who can’t easily access fresh, healthy food. One of the contributors to these so-called “food deserts” is the lack of infrastructure to distribute fresh food to markets. Since 2014, the Grant Program for Transporting Healthy Food has helped food distributors in 22 states enhance their delivery capabilities to farmers markets and communities in need, enabling recipient organizations to collectively serve an additional 90,000 families with more than 33 million pounds of food and increase the number of meals provided by more than 28 million

“A child said to me once, ‘I’ve never tried a strawberry.’ We’re hoping to give children here more fun and engaging opportunities to taste a variety of healthy, fresh food with help from CSX and The Conservation Fund.” 
                                                            —Eva Musick, Mingo Diabetes

CSX and The Conservation Fund have long been working to promote environmental sustainability and foster the next generation of environmental stewards. Since 2007, CSX has helped restore critical habitat at two national wildlife refuges through the donation of more than 13,000 trees and is helping reconnect children and nature with the creation of a school curriculum unit that teaches kids about the environment, math, science and economics through real-world freight transportation scenarios.

Why This Project Matters

The health of our children is one of our nation’s most pressing issues. The Conservation Fund’s food security work seeks to address the systematic barriers to access healthy food for low income families by focusing on capacity building, economic development/access to financing, community planning, preservation of natural resources important to farmers, public health and science and technology. The West Virginia Healthy Food Distribution Initiative draws on the strengths of both CSX and The Conservation Fund to identify solutions that serve and benefit the communities in which we live and work.

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