Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of peak farmers' market season across New York State, where more than 700 locations across the state will provide New Yorkers with access to fresh, locally grown and produced food and beverages thanks to programs like FreshConnect. New York farmers also benefit from the peak season as farmers' markets help growers and producers increase sales and reach new consumers. A map of farmers' markets in New York State is available and a full list of farmers' markets is available here.
"The Empire State is home to a thriving agricultural industry, and farmers' market season is the perfect opportunity for New Yorkers to enjoy all that their local growers and producers have to offer," Governor Cuomo said Governor Cuomo said. "Just as these markets provide farmers with the chance to sell their goods to new consumers, we are proud to support programs that help New Yorkers of all income levels visit their local farmers' market and purchase the freshest produce available for a healthy, balanced diet."
"Agriculture is a critical component of our upstate economy featuring world-class products," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "As the farmers' market season kicks off across the state, we encourage New Yorkers to visit the hundreds of markets and take advantage of what they have to offer. We want all individuals to have the opportunity to support local farmers and have access to some of the best goods in the country."
Nearly 1.5 million New Yorkers live in areas with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables. By expanding access to fresh food in underserved communities, farmers' markets help promote improved nutrition. The State Department of Agriculture and Markets administers several programs that ensure New Yorkers have access to fresh food, such as fruits and vegetables, while providing additional markets for New York's farmers.
Farmers' Market Nutrition Program
The Farmers' Market Nutrition Programs (FMNP) help low-income individuals participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and eligible seniors purchase locally grown fresh fruits, vegetables and culinary herbs at farmers' markets, farm stands and mobile markets.
A total of $6.8 million in FMNP benefits are available to families through WIC. Approximately 340,000 booklets consisting of five $4 checks, or a total of $20, are available this year, allowing for the purchase of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables from over 900 farmers vending at over 600 farmers' markets, farm stands and mobile markets across the state.
Nearly $3 million in benefits are also available to income eligible seniors, age 60 and older, to purchase $20 worth of locally grown, fresh fruits and vegetables through the Senior FMNP. Program benefits are provided on an individual basis, expanding the reach of the program to older New Yorkers.
In upstate communities, checks are distributed by county area Offices for the Aging beginning July 1. New York City residents can find out where to obtain benefits by calling 311 and requesting a directory.
The Senior and WIC FMNP are administered in cooperation with the New York State Office for the Aging, the New York City Department for the Aging and the New York State Department of Health. For more information on the FMNP, please click here. To find a list of authorized markets by county enrolled in the FMNP, please visit the Department's website.
FreshConnect Checks Program
FreshConnect Checks are available to all veterans, service members and their immediate family members at Division of Veterans' Services (DVS) offices on a first come, first served basis. Veterans, Service members and their immediate family members do not need to be recipients of any assistance programs to obtain and use FreshConnect Checks. For more information, and to find a DVS office, please call 1-888-838-7697 for information.
FreshConnect Checks provide a $2 incentive coupon to those who may be Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients for every $5 of benefits they use at participating markets. The incentive increases their purchasing power by 40 percent, while simultaneously supporting local farmers.
In addition, the Department works with the state Office of Temporary Disability Assistance (OTDA) to ensure SNAP benefits are available at farmers' markets. New Yorkers who receive SNAP can use their Electronic Benefit Transfer cards to purchase food at retail stores and certain farmers' markets and farm stands. A list of markets that accept SNAP is available here.
The State has consistently encouraged the use of SNAP benefits at farmers' markets to support local agriculture. As a result of these efforts, nearly 2.7 million low-income New Yorkers each year use their benefits to purchase healthy, nutritious foods that are produced around the state. In 2018 alone, OTDA processed $2.3 million through 104,066 transactions at 121 market sites. Altogether, the agency processed 156,260 transactions at 199 sites-including green carts, farm stands and mobile markets-amounting to $2.9 million in benefits redeemed for locally grown or produced foods.
In addition, the State has made continued progress toward expanding and increasing the efficiency of programs that connect low-income households to farmers' markets. There are now a record number of more than 300 farmers' markets across the state that accept SNAP benefits.
The State has also worked with private companies to ensure that transactions at farmers' markets can be processed using mobile phone technology, increasing efficiency and reducing operating costs. Earlier this year, Square Inc., a San Francisco-based financial services company, invested $2 million into the Novo Dia Group to support the continued expansion of the Mobile Market+ electronic benefits transfer platform that farmers' markets across the state use to process transactions.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "As we kick off the growing season, we're reminded how fortunate New Yorkers are to have so many options for obtaining nutritious, locally grown foods and beverages. To ensure that our seniors and low-income residents and families have access to these high-quality foods, New York State offers several programs that increase consumers' spending power on produce at participating markets. By helping more New Yorkers to purchase nutritious foods from our farmers' markets, our farmers and communities also benefit."
New York State Office for the Aging Acting Director Greg Olsen said, "New York's nation-leading nutrition programs are critical to helping our state's more than 4.3 million older adults maintain their health and independence. A healthy diet is a key component of aging well, and the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program, which provides low-income older adults with access to fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, plays an important role in furthering our efforts to make New York the healthiest state in the nation and a great place for people of all ages to grow up and grow older."
New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Access to fresh fruits and vegetables is critical to nutrition and overall health. We are pleased to partner with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to ensure that New Yorkers can take advantage of the state's large variety of farmers' markets, regardless of their income level."
OTDA Commissioner Mike Hein said, "Connecting low-income households with farmers' markets throughout the state is a win on all fronts. Not only are we helping families establish patterns of healthy eating, but we're supporting the farms and small businesses that are the life-blood of New York's agricultural industry. We are pleased to see that more farmers' markets than ever are accepting benefits from food assistance programs and hope that this expansion encourages even more households to support local agriculture."
New York State Division of Veterans' Services Director James McDonough said, "The FreshConnect Checks Program provides our Veterans Benefits Advisors with an important outreach and programmatic tool to engage with Veterans and Service members about their service in the US military and how we can assist them in accessing the benefits they earned. The FreshConnect Program is an invaluable, somewhat non-traditional path, to connect and engage with Veterans and Service members in their communities."
Representative Nita Lowey said, "Fresh fruits and vegetable are critical to a healthy diet, and through the programs offered at farmers' markets across the state, each and every New Yorker can have access to these nutritious foods. As Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, I am proud the Fiscal Year 2020 spending bill for the Department of Agriculture, which the House will consider next week, would reject the Trump Administration's elimination of the WIC Farmers' Market Nutrition Program and instead restore funding for this vital initiative."
Representative Sean Patrick Maloney said, "You can find fresh, locally grown produce across the Hudson Valley, but low-income families often struggle to afford these nutritious products, limiting their access to a balanced diet. I'm proud that through federal assistance programs like SNAP, we can help give all New Yorkers the opportunity to enjoy foods that were previously out of reach."
Senator Jen Metzger, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair, said, "With the help of innovative state programs, farmers' markets are playing a valuable role in helping to address food insecurity and widen affordable access to fresh, nutritious locally-grown foods. The Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (FNMP) and FreshConnect checks, together with the acceptance of SNAP benefits at farmers' markets, enables seniors and low-income residents to enjoy the high quality foods produced by New York's farms. A healthy food economy is one that sustains our small farms while ensuring that our most at-risk citizens can access the fresh and nutritious food they produce."
Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture, said, "One of the best parts of summer is enjoying fresh foods from our local farmers. Farmers' markets are an important part of supporting small farm businesses and help increase access to fresh, healthy foods for consumers. The state has gone a step further to ensure that seniors and low-income residents can also enjoy the best tastes of summer."
NY Farmers Market Federation Executive Director Diane Eggert said, "Even with the stresses of this spring's rainy and cold weather, New York's farmers are enthusiastic about the start of the farmers' market season and have found ways to bring local foods to market despite the weather. We commend their spirit and their entrepreneurship and highly recommend that New York consumers visit their local farmers' markets to support their efforts, purchase locally grown and nutritious foods and talk to the farmers to learn more about the foods they are providing. They are a wealth of knowledge and love to share their stories, their expertise and their cooking tips! Many of the state's markets and farmers also participate in SNAP, FMNP and coupon programs such as the FreshConnect Checks to ensure their foods are accessible to all New York's consumers."