The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets today announced more than $600,000 is available to help low-income families enrolled in SNAP, as well as Veterans, Servicemembers, and their immediate families who participate in the FreshConnect Checks Program. This program increases the purchasing power of food stamps used at participating farmers’ markets. More than 257,000 checks have already been issued to 82 sites across the state to help eligible New Yorkers access healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables, while also providing a boost to the agriculture industry.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Our farmers’ markets have seen an increased number of visitors, particularly over this last year during the pandemic as more New Yorkers turned to their local markets to do their food shopping. We want to ensure that everyone who is eligible knows that they can tap into the FreshConnect Checks program and use this benefit to purchase healthy fruits and vegetables. The program provides for these healthy alternatives while helping farmers expand their reach into new markets.”
The FreshConnect Checks program encourages recipients to use their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits at participating farmers’ markets. The program provides $2 incentive coupons for every $5 in SNAP benefits spent with the market, increasing the purchasing power of SNAP consumers by 40 percent. In 2020, more than $2.9 million in SNAP sales occurred at farmers' markets throughout the state. A full list of participating markets can be found here.
$200,000 in FreshConnect Checks will again be available to Veterans, Servicemembers, and their immediate family members at all of the New York State Division of Veterans' Services (DVS) offices statewide, and at Division of Veterans’ Services outreach programs conducted throughout New York State, on a first-come, first-served basis. There are no income restrictions, combat service requirements, or length of military service requirements for a Veteran, Servicemember, or eligible family member to receive an allotment of FreshConnect Checks. Each eligible Veteran, Servicemember, or family member receives $20 worth of FreshConnect Checks for redemption at farmers’ markets.
DVS and the Department of Agriculture and Markets have joined together every year since 2014 to distribute FreshConnect Checks to Veterans, Servicemembers, and their immediate family members. In 2019, the program received national recognition when it received the highly respected Pillars of Excellence Award from the Secretary of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, praising the program’s innovations and statewide successes.
Division of Veterans’ Services Executive Deputy Director Joel Evans said, “Our FreshConnect Checks partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Markets has grown during the past seven years into one of New York State’s most popular offerings for Veterans, Servicemembers, and Military Families. Food insecurity strikes Veterans at alarmingly high rates across our nation, and the FreshConnect Program is one of the ways that we join forces to combat this issue here in New York. We look forward to another successful FreshConnect season.”
Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Mike Hein said, “This program is welcome relief at a time when so many families and local businesses continue to feel the economic toll incurred by the pandemic. By stretching the purchasing power of food benefits at farmer's markets, we are encouraging SNAP households to explore healthy food options while also providing much-needed revenue for local farms and agricultural businesses.”
Farmers’ Market Federation of New York Executive Director Diane Eggert said, “The FreshConnect programs help our markets to achieve a goal of providing healthy food to everyone within their community. It also builds sales for our state’s farmers and food producers. We believe the FreshConnect program to be a win-win for everyone.”
FreshConnect-funded projects aim to provide a boost to New York farmers and ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of income, have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and are encouraged to accept other nutrition incentives, such as WIC and Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Programs.