State farmers’ market programs, including newly expanded FreshConnect Checks program, support access to fresh food
√ Encourages consumers to visit their local farmers’ market this weekend and shop local
√ Farmers’ Market Resiliency Grant program to launch later this year
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball, during National Farmers’ Market week, highlighted what his team called “critical programs that increase access to fresh and local foods available at New York state farmers’ markets and that provide a boost to New York’s agricultural industry. New York has approximately 700 farmers’ markets, farm stands and mobile markets participating in the department’s farmers’ market nutrition programs, supplying healthy, homegrown foods to communities across the state. Ball encouraged consumers to find their local farmers’ market here, and shop local this weekend to support New York’s farmers.
Ball said, “Farmers’ markets are necessary to connect both our producers and consumers and bolster the New York state agricultural industry. We are proud to support our farmers’ markets and their operators and recognize the importance of expanding our local agricultural marketing opportunities. National Farmers’ Market Week is a great opportunity to get out, support your local market and shop local, and meet the farmers behind all of the fantastic farm fresh products available right now.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vislack proclaimed Aug. 7-13, 2022, as National Farmers’ Market Week to celebrate the direct-to-consumer producers, farmers’ market operators, and consumers that “bring their communities to life during the market season.”
A press release said, “Farmers’ markets, farm stands and mobile markets are crucial components to a healthy food system. They provide outlets for agricultural producers to meet the rising consumer demand for a variety of fresh, affordable and convenient products grown directly from the farm. New York state – through the Department of Agriculture and Markets, Department of Health, Office for the Aging and Office of Temporary Disability Assistance – administers several programs that help low-income families, seniors and veterans access fresh, healthy food at participating markets.”
Diane Eggert, executive director of the Farmers Market Federation of NY, said. “Farmers’ markets offer more than just food, but an experience, entertainment, and the pleasure of meeting your neighbors and community members, making your trip worthwhile. They are also the perfect way for consumers to fight against the inflation we have all been facing. The foods at farmers’ markets are fresh and last longer than foods purchased at big box stores and are higher in flavor and nutrition. In addition, nutrition programs, such as the farmers’ market nutrition program and the expanded FreshConnect Checks program, help make the foods at farmers markets accessible to more consumers. It’s a great time to celebrate farmers’ markets and we welcome everyone to come out and find out what they are all about.”
FreshConnect Checks Program and Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
The department’s FreshConnect Checks program encourages recipients to use their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program 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%. In 2021, more than $4.9 million in SNAP sales occurred at farmers’ markets throughout the state, an 85% increase over 2020. A full list of markets participating in the FreshConnect Checks program is available at https://agriculture.ny.gov/farmersmarkets.
Also, new this year, the county veteran service agencies across the state are now able to distribute FreshConnect Checks to veterans, servicemembers and their immediate families, greatly increasing the number of sites distributing checks from 31 last year to 62 this year.
The press release said, “In addition, the farmers’ market nutrition program (FMNP) promotes local farmers by expanding their sales at farmers' markets and farm stands, and fosters healthy communities though the consumption of locally grown foods. Consumers who are eligible are provided with coupons to use for fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmers’ markets, farm stands and mobile markets in New York state.
“If you are a low-income senior (aged 60 years or older) or individual enrolled in WIC, living in New York state, you may be eligible to receive coupons. Seniors must contact their local county Office for the Aging for more information on where to receive SFMNP coupons. Individuals enrolled in WIC may contact their WIC clinic to ask how they can get coupons.”
Farmers’ Market Resiliency Grant Program
The New York state budget included $700,000 in funding for the Farmers’ Market Resiliency Grant program. Grant funding will give farmers and small businesses an opportunity to build resiliency into their markets, including moving to online sales and delivery, and investing in infrastructure to make local food accessible to more consumers.
The department will launch the farmers’ market resiliency program later this year.