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Enhancing Access to Fresh Produce

There has been a growing emphasis on the importance of access to fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables for promoting healthy diets and combating food insecurity. Farmers’ markets play a crucial role in providing communities with access to nutritious produce while also supporting local farmers and economies. One significant factor contributing to the accessibility of farm-fresh produce is the acceptance of key benefits programs at farmers’ markets. Let’s delve into the different benefits accepted at New York farmers’ markets and how they enhance access to fresh fruits and vegetables for all.

vegetables on table

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps, helps low-income individuals and families to purchase food. Many farmers markets across New York accept SNAP benefits, allowing recipients to use their EBT cards to buy fresh produce directly from local farmers. This initiative not only ensures that those facing financial constraints have access to nutritious food but also supports local agriculture by connecting farmers with a broader customer base.

Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP)
FMNP is a program tailored to support specific groups, including low-income seniors and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) participants. Through FMNP, eligible individuals receive vouchers that can be redeemed for fresh fruits and vegetables at authorized farmers markets. By targeting vulnerable populations, FMNP promotes healthier eating habits and fosters community engagement at farmers’ markets.

Double Up Food Bucks
A program aimed at increasing access to fresh produce is Double Up Food Bucks. This initiative matches SNAP benefits spent at participating farmers’ markets, effectively doubling the purchasing power of SNAP recipients. By incentivizing the purchase of fruits and vegetables, Double Up Food Bucks not only improves access to healthy foods but provides an additional opportunity to support local farmers by stimulating sales.

FreshConnect Checks
The FreshConnect Checks program is an initiative administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets aimed at improving access to fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables for low-income individuals and families. Through this program, eligible participants receive checks that can be used to purchase fresh produce at participating farmers markets across New York State. The checks are distributed to individuals and families, particularly those receiving SNAP benefits, to supplement their food budgets and encourage the consumption of healthy foods.

It is important to note that not all farmers’ markets accept these benefits. Cornell Cooperative Extension Herkimer County publishes a list of the farmers’ markets in Herkimer County each year, including markets that are registered as FMNP participating market sites, at a minimum.

The acceptance of various benefits programs at New York State farmers’ markets plays a critical role in increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables within our communities. Farmers’ markets provide a hub for direct transactions between consumers and local farmers. With the help of these programs, we can come together to promote healthier eating habits, support local agriculture, and strengthen community ties. As we continue to prioritize food security and public health, it’s essential to expand and enhance the reach of these benefits programs to ensure that everyone can enjoy fresh, nutritious produce from their local farmers’ markets.

For more information about how to participate in these programs as a farmer and/or farmers’ market, please read ‘A Guide for Farmers and Farmers’ Market Managers‘. 

Cameron Burke is part of the Cornell Cooperative Extension Herkimer County team. She’s an advocate for nutrition security and sustainable food systems, believing in the power of human connections, education, and grit to build resilient food systems. Cameron has committed herself to fostering bonds between communities and their food, promoting local farmers, artisans, and producers for their invaluable contributions. Her passion for food and community drives positive change and meaningful connections in the local food movement.