Original Media Source: NYC Newswire
Recently, Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett and GrowNYC Executive Director Marcel Van Ooyen announced that in 2016, New Yorkers spent more than $1 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits at farmer markets for the first time in the city’s history. SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is a federally funded program that helps low-income individuals and families purchase food. Customers spent $1,016,208 in SNAP benefits at GrowNYC farmer markets in 2016, an increase of over $70,000 from 2015.
In addition, the Health Department distributed $328,758 in Health Bucks at GrowNYC Greenmarkets, an incentive that provides $2 coupons to spend on fruits and vegetables for every $5 spent in SNAP benefits. Health Bucks give SNAP participants 40 percent more to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables at Greenmarkets. Last year, more Health Bucks were distributed to SNAP participants than ever before, and today the Health Department announced that the program, previously only available from July to November, will now be available year-round.
“New Yorkers are buying more fresh, local fruits and vegetables from our farmers’ markets than ever before, and that’s great news for their health,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “The Health Department has a close partnership with GrowNYC to ensure Health Bucks get into the hands of people who need them. Surpassing the $1 million mark is a milestone in our efforts to make sure all New Yorkers have access to fresh produce. This could not have been achieved without the commitment from GrowNYC.”
“SNAP sales at Greenmarkets continue to flourish across the city, thanks in large part to the support of Health Commissioner Bassett, Speaker Mark-Viverito and the entire New York City Council,” says GrowNYC Executive Director, Marcel Van Ooyen. “By accepting SNAP benefits and Health Bucks at every Greenmarket in all five boroughs, we ensure New Yorkers of all income levels can feed their families the most nutritious foods our region has to offer. Additionally, those dollars provide much needed income for our region’s family farmers and help to build our urban and rural economies. We are deeply grateful for the City’s continued commitment to providing access to healthy food to all New Yorkers and building a sustainable food system.”
“One New York City: The Plan for a Strong and Just City identifies increased fruit and vegetable consumption as a key indicator for health and wellness,” said Barbara Turk, Director of Food Policy, Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. “New Yorkers want to eat better, but price and proximity limits access to fresh fruit and vegetables. Health Bucks is the most successful approach we have to improving access, and I congratulate DOHMH and GrowNYC for their vision and their accomplishment.”
“In 2016 NYC residents spent a record $1 million in SNAP benefits at farmers markets – great news for NYC low-income families seeking access to healthy fruits and vegetables and for farmers from around NYS who grow those crops,” said Assistant Speaker Felix W.
Ortiz. “Health Bucks are smart investments that will continue to pay important dividends for our city and state.”
With one in five New Yorkers on SNAP, the Health Bucks program fills a critical need by extending limited food dollars and providing more fresh fruits and vegetables to those who need them the most. In 2016, all 135 farmers’ markets across the five boroughs – 60 percent of which were located in high-poverty neighborhoods – accepted Health Bucks. Over the last 10 years, New Yorkers have used Health Bucks to purchase more than $3 million worth of fresh fruits and vegetables. In January, Health Bucks became available year-round, rather than from only July to November, thanks to a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Program.
Eating more fruits and vegetables provides important nutrients and can help prevent high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. In 2015, New York City adults ate only 2.3 servings per day on average, and adults in low-income neighborhoods consumed less than those in high-income neighborhoods.
In 2016, approximately 62 percent of SNAP dollars at Greenmarkets were spent on fresh fruits and vegetables, 12 percent on baked goods and grains, 9 percent on cheese, milk and other dairy products, 7 percent on maple syrup, honey and preserves, 7 percent on meat, poultry and eggs and 3 percent on fish. Of all farmers’ markets in New York City, the Union Square Greenmarket had the highest SNAP sales at $311,116 in 2016, a 12 percent increase from 2015.
To increase awareness of SNAP benefits, the Health Department and GrowNYC launched educational campaigns promoting Greenmarkets and Health Bucks. GrowNYC’s “Oh SNAP!” campaign for subways and buses raised awareness about the acceptance of SNAP at all Greenmarkets throughout the city. The Health Department’s targeted outreach campaign promoted Health Bucks to SNAP recipients on bus shelters and laundromats closest to farmers’ markets in high-need neighborhoods. The campaign will re-air this spring.
GrowNYC’s Greenmarkets began accepting SNAP in 2005 in partnership with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. In that first year, three Greenmarkets accepted SNAP, and they processed $1,000 in SNAP benefits.