Low-Income Locals Are Buying Fresh Goods
Last year saw a significant increase in the use of food stamps at Greenmarkets across New York City, the city announced on Tuesday, Jan. 2.
Food stamp purchases at Greenmarkets increased from $505,166 to over $620,000 in 2011, a 23 percent increase from 2010. Some markets reported nearly $6,000 in food stamp sales in a single day. In 2011, approximately 75 percent of food stamp dollars at Greenmarkets were spent on fresh fruits and vegetables, while EBT spent on baked goods dropped by nearly five percent. This is impor- tant to note because families that qualify for federal food stamp aid often live in neighborhoods with limited access to nutritious, healthy food.
“The increase of food stamp usage at Greenmarkets is proof that we are making significant progress in our efforts to get more fruits and vegetables into low-income neighborhoods,” said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “This means we are improving public health by increasing access to fresh, locally-produced foods in underserved communities. We are simultaneously boosting small businesses by keeping federal food stamp dollars in the hands of local farmers. Let’s all start 2012 with a resolution to eat healthier and support our Greenmarkets in all five boroughs.”
The Union Square Greenmarket had the highest food stamp sales at $151,813 in 2011. That is approximately $105,000 more than sales at
–SEE MARKET ON PG. 59- Union Square in 2010, and $86,394 more than the highest grossing market in 2010.
“I am pleased to see the continued success of the Greenmarket EBT Initiative, which has been an invaluable tool in expanding access to fresh produce in our City,” said Council Member Annabel Palma, Chair of the Council’s Committee on General Welfare. “The expansion of the initiative to new locations is a testament to the hard work that the Speaker, the City Council and GrowNYC have put into making this initiative a success. More importantly, the dramatic increase in the use of food stamps at the markets this year is further evidence that, when given the opportunity, New Yorkers will choose to eat healthy.”
“Food stamp sales at Greenmarkets across the city continue to flourish, thanks in large part to the support of Speaker Quinn and the NY City Council,” said GreenMarket Director Michael Hurwitz. “GrowNYC is thrilled that, despite the devastating effects of Tropical Storms Irene and Lee which impacted many of our farmers, EBT sales grew by 23 percent over the last year. In 2011 more than $620,000 in EBT dollars were spent at 43 markets-and $151,813 of that was spent at Union Square, our flagship market, proving that all New Yorkers want access to fresh, affordable, nutritious food, as well as the chance to reinvest in their regional economy.”
In 2006, the City Council began partnering with GrowNYC to provide funding for EBT scanners, signage, community outreach, merchant account fees and dedicated staff members to operate the machines at the Greenmarkets. The initiative has been highly successful and this year EBT machines were available at 43 markets.
A multi-prong outreach effort by GrowNYC including a multi-borough marketing initiative in six different languages (Spanish, Polish, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Yiddish) urging New Yorkers to use food stamps at Greenmarkets, with advertisements on subways and buses and in several citywide newspapers, has also helped increase usage considerably. Last year, the City Council allocated $270,000 toward the program and related advertising costs.
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 “FoodWorks” plan, which is designed to address 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.