The Food Security Project is an initiative of the Virginia Cooperative Extension that seeks to improve community food access by encouraging the growth and development of local food systems and strengthening consumers’ knowledge of and access to gardening opportunities and farmers’ markets.   

General About the Organization/Mission

The VCE Food Security Project is a USDA-funded nutrition and health program that provides intervention in communities lacking access to nutritious, affordable food. It is an extension of the SNAP-Ed program, an educational initiative within the SNAP program to promote healthy behaviors among recipients. The Food Security Project moves away from the traditional SNAP-Ed approach focused on educating the individual consumer and towards a broader approach focused on improving food environments for whole communities. The three main initiatives of the Food Security Project include:

1. Providing technical support to farmers markets and developing resources to teach vendors how to accept SNAP benefits at market and advertise in the communities where markets are held

2. Teaching container gardening in public elementary schools as a way to connect children to the concept of growing their own food and the importance of eating fresh produce

3. Promoting community gardens as a key tool of individual engagement, as well as a source of physical activity and affordable, nutritious food

 Basic Info


Type of Organization



Primary Contact

 Meredith Ledlie Johnson
[email protected]

Issues of Focus

  • Increasing the use of SNAP/EBT at Farmers Markets
  • Keeping local food affordable
  • Nutrition and gardening education and outreach 

History of Organization

The Food Security Project was started in 2012. It was and continues to be funded by the SNAP-Ed programmatic arm of the US Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The SNAP-Ed grant used to fund the program was intended to broaden the VCE’s level of intervention from the individual level, where most education intervention occurs, to the community level, where intervention programs focus on improving the food environment and local food system. (Source:

Programs and Projects 

1. Farmers Market Technical Support

The VCE Food Security Project worked with the VA Farmers Market Association to create a toolkit and manual to instruct market managers on how to accept SNAP at farmers’ markets, as well as marketing resources farmers and market managers can use to advertise. The project also provides consumer resources at farmer markets including cooking demonstrations, nutrition education lessons, and orientation guides to shopping at farmers markets. 

2. Gardening Education in Schools

The project teaches in-classroom container gardening lessons to youth in grades  3 and 4. Starting in October 2015, the VCE will also partner with existing school and community gardens do nutrition education at those sites. 

3. The Farmacy Garden

The New River Health District Farmacy Garden is a pilot program launched in August 2014 that provides hands-on education and access to fresh food to patients of the New River Valley Community Health Center in Christiansburg, VA. Patients at risk for obesity and chronic health problems are given “prescriptions” for garden activity that explains what the community garden is and how the program works. Participants are given a bag of produce for engaging with the garden in ways such as tending the garden, participating in a walking program, or attending a nutrition education program held at the garden. WIC recipients can also qualify for participation in the program.

 Partners and Frequent Collaborators

·       Virginia Cooperative Extension

·       VA Farmers Market Association

·       New River Valley Department of Health

·       New River Valley Community Health Center


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