The Virginia Cooperative Extension offers a "Shop Smart Eat Smart" initiative to get healthier, fresher foods to shoppers, even amidst the pandemic. Shenandoah County has its first participant in the program. WMRA’s Randi B. Hagi reports.
True to its name, the Jon Henry General Store in New Market offers just about everything – jams and hot sauces, novelty socks, gourmet beef jerky. Now, there are also little cards along the shelves with information about healthy choices of fresh produce, eggs, and other foods.
JON HENRY: If you’re choosing milk, maybe choose 2% or skim milk. If you’re choosing pasta, choose the whole wheat. If you’re looking for a protein in the cereal section, like, maybe choose the quinoa cereal.
Owner Jon Henry said, as part of the program, they’ll be rolling out online videos soon, with cooperative extension chefs demonstrating how to cook and bake with products you can find in Henry’s store.
HENRY: People are always asking us, like, oh, I see rhubarb, what do I actually do with rhubarb? Or, I see a rutabaga, but what else can we do with it?
The store qualified for the program when they started accepting EBT earlier this year.
HENRY: Here in New Market there’s not a lot of places that you can access fresh produce … that aren’t just canned and processed. So this allows us to kind of get the word out.
And it isn’t just folks from New Market who’ve noticed. Shoppers come from as far away as West Virginia and Rappahannock County, and thanks to the pandemic, now a few D.C.-area residents.
HENRY: They’d never been here, didn’t even know where New Market was, but called ahead and ordered boxes of food for them and their neighbors and they were going to take it back to the city because they said the wait times to get into Costco … were like four hours to get in and out, and it was quicker and safer to drive out here.
Henry said that, thanks to their strong connections in the Valley food system, they haven’t had any shortages of things other stores are running out of: like milk, eggs, and toilet paper. He recently found a Virginia supplier to buy bulk flour from, and employed a local candy company to use their equipment to bag it up for resale.
HENRY: So we’re able to use our small, local networks to kind of move and adapt quickly.