Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced FreshConnect grants to 34 projects around the state that will increase access to New York farm products for residents in low-income and underserved areas.
"This is really a win-win situation for farmers and for families across the state as we try to provide more access and easier access to locally grown, fresh farm products," Governor Cuomo said. "These FreshConnect grants will support creative solutions to get New York farm products to underserved areas of the state, creating new economic opportunities for our farmers while, at the same time, providing healthy options for more New Yorkers."
Almost 1.5 million New Yorkers live in areas with limited supermarket access. Expanding access to fresh food in underserved communities has been shown to both improve nutrition and lower costs related to obesity and diet-related disease, while also fostering community and economic development. Governor Cuomo launched the FreshConnect program last year to create new farmers' markets and support existing markets that provided fresh produce to high-need areas. With this round of funding, the program will have helped a total of 48 projects throughout the state bring New York farm products to communities in need.
The Governor expanded the FreshConnect Program this year to support not only farmers' markets, but other creative solutions to improve access to fresh, locally produced food by low-income or underserved communities. As a result, the program received over 121 proposals and is providing funding to the top projects that exhibit local innovative solutions to connect communities in need with New York farm products. Examples of funded projects include:
Farmers' markets and youth-operated farm stands that will be created or expanded to better serve low-income residents in food deserts
Subsidized Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares or low-income CSA programs that will introduce over 100 new families to weekly deliveries of fresh fruits and vegetables
The introduction of EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) services for the first time at 13 farmers' markets to allow these farmers markets to accept Food Stamps, along with plans to increase Food Stamp purchases through promotion and incentives
Free transportation services to help increase traffic at existing markets and allow those with limited resources an opportunity to attend and shop at a farmers' market
Improving distribution of locally grown, fresh food to food pantries and congregate feeding programs
Applicants received extra points in the competitive ranking process for including a food donation program in their proposed project. As a result, nearly all recipients of FreshConnect funding will be coordinating a local food donation program to connect food pantries or food banks with New York farm products, as part of their funded project. All FreshConnect projects will accept Food Stamps, if applicable, and are encouraged to accept Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Fruit & Vegetable Checks, Farmers' Market Nutrition Program coupons, and Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition coupons, to ensure that all citizens have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, regardless of income.
The FreshConnect program will also support the continuation of its flagship market, the 125th Street FreshConnect Farmers' Market, located at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. New York State Office Building in Central Harlem. Slated to open in mid-June and to be managed by the Harlem Memorial Community Development Corporation, the market will feature a wide assortment of New York farm products, as well as family activities and community outreach that will support the FreshConnect program's mission to increase access to fresh food in low-income and underserved neighborhoods.
The FreshConnect program will also again offer FreshConnect Checks, a nutrition incentive to encourage Food Stamp recipients to use their benefits at participating farmers' markets by providing $2 rebate checks for every $5 in Food Stamps spent at participating markets.
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine said, "Like the crops we harvest, the FreshConnect projects Governor Cuomo is awarding today are born from the ground up and are a true reflection of the need and interest at the local level to help better connect fresh and healthy food from New York farmers with those in rural and urban areas that lack access."
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, said, "This is great news for so many families across New York. Millions of New Yorkers do not have access to fresh, healthy food. This program will help ensure that more families are able to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, which gives people the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives, saves billions in health care costs, and creates good-paying jobs right here at home."
U.S. Representative Charles B. Rangel said, "The projects promoted by the FreshConnect program represent one giant leap towards a healthier New York. I applaud Gov. Cuomo for continuing to find new and exciting ways to provide access to fresh food to underserved New Yorkers while giving a much needed boost to the State's agriculture. I am confident that the program will be a huge success and look forward to visiting the 125th Street FreshConnect Farmers' Market, located right by my district office."
U.S. Representative Nydia Velázquez said, "Making nutritious food available to underserved areas can help New Yorkers lead longer and healthier lives."
U.S. Representative Tim Bishop said, "These FreshConnect grants will help underserved communities on Long Island enjoy the many benefits of fresh produce and open up new markets for Suffolk County's farmers. Targeted grants to support existing Farmers' Markets and kick-start innovative programs will improve access to healthy fruits and vegetables throughout Long Island and all of New York."
U.S. Representative Chris Gibson said, "Family farms are essential to the fabric of our local Upstate New York communities. I firmly believe that our farmers are the hardest working, smartest farmers in the world. Their issue is profitability and this partnership will provide benefit to both local farms looking for new markets for their products and families looking to access more locally grown food. I am a strong proponent of "buying local,' and applaud Governor Cuomo for this initiative to expand that philosophy across New York State. I look forward to advancing similar issues at a federal level in the upcoming Farm Bill."
State Senator Patty Ritchie, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, "Farmers' markets across New York State are an important part of local economies, and Governor Cuomo's FreshConnect program has been a successful initiative in providing farmers with the help they need to sell their produce to more New Yorkers. The grants announced today will be a shot in the arm for local farms and agriculture communities across New York, while also ensuring that healthy food is made available to residents of our underserved communities. I commend the Governor for launching this initiative, and I look forward to working together in the future to continue to strengthen New York's vibrant farming community."
Assemblyman William Magee, Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, said, "These grants will benefit New York's agriculture communities and residents, as farmers will be better able to market their produce and more New Yorkers will have access to fresh, healthy food. I thank Governor Cuomo for launching and supporting the FreshConnect program, and we will continue to work together to make New York's farm produce accessible to all New Yorkers."
John Evers, Executive Director of Food Bank Association of New York State, said, "The Food Banks are very excited about the Governor focusing on increasing access to fresh produce for those in need. There has never been a greater demand for fresh and healthy food. We thank Governor Cuomo for this exciting initiative and look forward to working with the recipients in their local communities."
Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau, "Governor Cuomo's FreshConnect program represents an important investment in New York's agriculture industry. The projects announced today will help to better connect people living in underserved communities with our family farms and the fresh locally grown food that they produce every day. This represents a win-win for the citizens of New York State because it strengthens the state's agricultural business climate, while getting nutritious food to those who need it. I commend Governor Cuomo for his work on behalf of New York's farmers and look forward to continuing to work with him on this innovative program."
Diane Eggert, Executive Director of the Farmers Market Federation of New York, said, "Farmers markets are a proven system of increasing the availability of locally grown, fresh food in neighborhoods. Through the FreshConnect program, Governor Cuomo is taking this concept one step further by providing an incentive for communities to introduce new consumers to this type of direct marketing and to encourage the use of EBT at farmers markets that will result in greater sales for our farmers and will put more farm fresh fruits and vegetables on the plates of those in need."