Almost 1.5 million New Yorkers live in areas with limited supermarket access. Expanding access to fresh food in underserved communities improves the diets of individuals in those communities while fostering economic development. Governor Cuomo launched the FreshConnect Program in 2011 to create new farmers’ markets and support existing markets that provide outlets for fresh food in high need neighborhoods.
Over the years the emphasis of the FreshConnect Program has evolved. For 2015 the emphasis will be on the launch of a food box program to build the capacity of local organizations to provide weekly shares of fruits and vegetables to low income individuals in neighborhoods with limited access to this produce. The food box outlets will be geared toward encouraging participants in SNAP to use their benefits to purchase weekly shares of local produce.
Another initiative of the FreshConnect Program is the creation and implementation of a Market Manger Certification Program. This program is a cooperative effort between the Farmers Market Federation of New York, SUNY Cobleskill and Cornell Cooperative Extension that will result in an intensive 3 day training regimen in the fall of 2015 and the creation of online training modules to facilitate the future training of market managers.
This year the FreshConnect Check Program has been expanded in terms of the volume of checks available and extended to operate year round at markets with this capacity. The FreshConnect Checks provide a $2.00 incentive check for every $5.00 of SNAP benefit used at participating markets thereby increasing the purchasing power of SNAP consumers by 40 percent while supporting local farmers. Checks will be available starting July 1 at participating markets shown on the accompanying map on this website.
Following on a pilot program from 2104 FreshConnect Checks will again be available to veterans, Servicemembers, and their immediate family members at county Veterans Affairs offices on a first come –first served basis to be used to purchase fresh foods at local farmers markets.