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 in 2011 to create new farmers' markets and support existing markets that provided fresh produce to high-need areas.
In 2012, 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, an expanded FreshConnect program awarded grants through a competitive process that supported work at over 50 project sites to better connect New Yorkers with local farm products.
The FreshConnect program also includes the “FreshConnect Checks” initiative, a rebate incentive that encourages New Yorkers receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (“SNAP” – formerly known in New York as “Food Stamps”) to use those benefits at farmers' markets. FreshConnect Checks provide $2 rebate checks for every $5 in SNAP benefits spent at participating markets.
In 2013, the Program is continuing to grow and will support innovative projects that connect underserved communities with New York farm products, including:
- new initiatives at traditional farmers’ markets;
- youth markets; and
- delivery of farm products to low-income housing facilities.