Connecting Areas to Fresh Produce

Easier Access To Farm-Fresh Goods

State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine announced the availability of $300,000 in funds to support Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initiative, the Fresh Connect Program.

This program will award up to $10,000 per project for eligible projects that increase access to locally grown, fresh foods by low-income and/or underserved communities across New York State.

“We are pleased to once again offer assistance to those organizations that wish to join the governor in this endeavor and will provide up to $10,000 per project for eligible and creative proposals that help him achieve his mission,” Aubertine said.

The goal of the Fresh Connect Program is to enhance the nutrition and economic health in New York State by supporting projects that connect underserved communities with New York farm products.

Eligible projects must increase access to fresh food in low-income and/or underserved communities, and can include, but are not limited to: new farmers’ markets; satellite youth markets; delivery systems for fresh produce; transportation for low-income individuals; a CSA-share type model for distributing produce; or forming new partnerships or programs to better connect low-income and/or underserved communities with New York farm and food products.

Local government entities, regional market authorities, public benefit corporations, and not-for-profit corporations are eligible to apply, including farmers’ markets that participated in the Fresh Connect Program last year. Successful applicants can receive up to $10,000 with a 25 percent matching requirement of cash or in-kind services.

The request for proposals and application are available on the department’s website or by calling 1-518-457-2195. Applications are due into the New York State Department of Agriculture and Market by Apr. 2.

The Fresh Connect Program will be administered through a partnership between the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, Empire State Development, and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

In addition to this RFP, the state will also offer Fresh Connect Checks, a nutrition incentive to encourage Food Stamp recipients to use their benefits at participating farmers’ markets by giving shoppers using Food Stamps a $2 coupon for every $5 of their Food Stamp benefit spent at the market.

Last year, during its pilot season, the Fresh Connect Program supported more than a dozen farmers’ markets in helping them to expand and better meet the needs by providing fresh produce to low-income or underserved communities.

Expanding fresh food access in underserved communities has been shown to improve nutrition and lower costs related to obesity and diet-related disease while fostering community and economic development, according to Aubertine.

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