CITY HALL – City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Annabel Palma, Chair of the Council’s General Welfare Committee, GrowNYC Executive Director Marcel Van Ooyen, and Michael Hurwitz, Director of GrowNYC’s Greenmarket Program today announced a dramatic increase in the use of food stamps at the city’s Greenmarkets.
Food stamp purchases during 2010 at Greenmarkets doubled, growing from $251,000 in 2009 to over $500,000 in 2010. Some markets have reported nearly $6,000 in food stamp sales in a single day. In addition, over 80% of total food stamp dollars was used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.
Families that qualify for federal food stamp aid often live in neighborhoods with limited access to the nutritious food they need to support a healthy lifestyle. Back in 2000, when food stamps transitioned from paper coupons to the paperless Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, the problem grew more severe because many farmers’ markets were unable to accept food stamps.
In 2006, Speaker Quinn and the City Council began partnering with GrowNYC to provide funding for EBT scanners, signage, community outreach and a dedicated staff member to operate the machines at four Greenmarkets around the City. The program proved an immediate success, most notably at the Poe Park Greenmarket in the Bronx where the amount of food stamps being used grew from almost nothing to over $500 a day. This year the 175th St. market led the city in food stamp sales, with a grand total of $65,419.
In 2010, EBT machines became available at 16 additional Greenmarkets – bringing the total to 40 markets citywide. In addition, GrowNYC conducted a major marketing initiative urging New Yorkers to use food stamps at Greenmarkets, with ads on subways and buses, and in several citywide newspapers.
“The City Council is proud to support programs like our Greenmarket EBT initiative, which helps get healthy food to hungry New Yorkers,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “This year’s dramatic increase in food stamp usage at our Greenmarkets demonstrates that New Yorkers want to eat healthy – they simply need to be given the option. It’s also the perfect example of a smart use of city resources, keeping more federal food stamp dollars in the hands of local farmers and vendors, and supporting local jobs.”
“Too often, fresh, locally grown produce is not easily accessible in our city, but thanks to the leadership of the Speaker, GrowNYC, and the New York City Council, low-income New Yorkers now have better access to healthy food than ever before through the city’s Greenmarkets,” said Annabel Palma, Chair of the General Welfare Committee. “While we, as a city, have more work to do, Greenmarkets have been an invaluable tool in bringing fresh produce to some of the lowest-income neighborhoods, creating both a thriving market for New York’s family farmers and an accessible location for New Yorkers to get the fresh food they need.”
“We are extremely grateful to Speaker Quinn and the City Council for making GrowNYC’s food stamp in the farmers market project a continued success,” said Marcel Van Ooyen, Executive Director of GrowNYC. “The Council’s support has enabled us to expand EBT usage exponentially at our Greenmarkets, and, as a result, our farmers markets’ are playing a key role in a city-wide push to increase access to fresh, locally-produced foods in communities facing disproportionate rates of diet-related illness. Thanks to Speaker Quinn’s support, this program is a model for farmers’ markets across the country.”
Greenmarket supports farmers and preserves farmland for the future by providing regional small family farmers with opportunities to sell their fruits, vegetables and other farm products to New Yorkers.
Increasing the number of farmers markets in the five boroughs – and ensuring that all of them accept food stamp benefits – were among the 59 recommendations in Speaker Quinn’s recent ‘FoodWorks” plan. ‘FoodWorks’ is a blueprint for a more sustainable food system – a ground-to-garbage approach unprecedented in the history of the city. It addresses issues at every phase of the food system, from agricultural production through post-consumption. Proposals focus on improving public health, reducing environmental damage, and creating jobs and economic growth. For more information, and to read the FoodWorks report, go to www.council.nyc.gov/food.