During a recent visit to the “Big Apple”, Audrey Rowe, Administrator, USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) visited Poe Park Greenmarket in the Bronx, a borough of New York City. She entered to find farmers showing off their fresh, locally-grown produce, herbs and specialty products, which community members regularly use their SNAP and WIC benefits to buy.
Administrator Rowe joined Joel Berg, Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, New York City officials and community based organizations as they stopped at each farmers’ stand to thank them for assisting the USDA in its fight against hunger. Farmers were enthusiastic in sharing with Rowe their experiences as local farmers, the struggles they face as small business owners and the connection each they feel as part of the Poe Park community. Rowe stressed the importance of keeping an open dialogue with farmers, in order to figure out ways USDA can best support them in expanding their customer base.
One of the options available at the Poe Park Greenmarket is the New York City Health Department’s Health Bucks program. Health Bucks are $2 coupons redeemable for fresh produce at all farmers markets in NYC. The coupons are distributed as a SNAP incentive, where for every $5 a customer spends in SNAP at the farmers’ markets they receive an additional $2 in Health Bucks coupons. The idea is to increase the purchasing power of participants, thus incentivizing the purchase of additional fresh fruits and vegetables. These coupons are also provided through community-based organizations as an incentive for health and nutrition programming and at Stellar Farmers’ Markets workshops.
While there, Administrator Rowe visited a stand that was hosted by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Stellar Farmers’ Markets program , a USDA SNAP-Ed funded project. She joined community residents to participate in a bilingual nutrition education workshop and cooking demonstration.. The participants worked alongside nutritionist to learn different techniques to use when preparing healthy dishes at home, utilizing the fresh fruit and vegetables from the farmers market.
The Poe Park Green Market is one of many farmers markets across the country going above and beyond to offer communities the food assistances resources they need. In the midst of the New York City’s hustle and bustle, it is communities like these that have a lasting impact when it comes to combating obesity and increasing access to healthier foods.