Qns greenmarkets see rise in food stamp customers

Qns greenmarkets see rise in food stamp customers
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Philip Newman

Greenmarkets sales to food stamp users rose by 30 percent in the past year in what City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) called proof that “all New Yorkers will buy health foods when given the opportunity.”

Corona and Astoria were among areas where greenmarkets reported more than 65 percent of income from shoppers using electronic benefits transfer cards or special coupons for low-income shoppers.

The Council released a report last week at the Union Square market detailing EBT card activity at greenmarkets providing access to underserved areas and supporting local farmers.

Sale at greenmarkets rose from $638,140 in 2011 to $831,601 in 2012.

“The program is a win-win because it increases access to nourishing food for New Yorkers who need it most and keeps food stamp dollars in the hands of local farmers,” Quinn said. “By investing in a program that makes it possible for low-income New Yorkers to buy fresh and nutritious food, the City Council has helped to create a new market for fresh food that will make this project sustainable in the years to come.

“This continued success of the Greenmarket EBT initiative is proof that all New Yorkers will purchase healthy foods when given the opportunity.”

The report shows high levels of EBT redemption in all parts of the city. In fact, some markets — including Sunset Park, Poe Park and 175th Street besides Corona and Astoria — got more than 65 percent of their income from shoppers using EBT, their WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons and $2 paper vouchers called Health Bucks, the report said.

For seven years, the Council has provided money for the EBT program. The Council has come up with an average of $241,000 for the initiative every year since the 2007 fiscal year.

“Access to fresh vegetables and fruit remains a significant challenge for low-income New Yorkers,” said Quinn.

GrowNYC Executive Director Marcel Van Ooyen said every one of GrowNYC’s 54 greenmarkets accept EBT, providing fresh, healthy food to city residents while supporting regional agriculture.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.