“For the last three years, New York State’s FreshConnect Farmers Markets have helped thousands of New Yorkers obtain access to home-grown, fresh food,” Cuomo said. “New York State’s farms are second to none, and through this program we are taking advantage of the incredible food they produce to provide healthier, better options for low-income residents.”
This year, the $130,000 RFP will focus on supporting at least 13 traditional farmers-market and youth-market grant projects across the state. Under this initiative, new and existing farmers markets, municipalities and not-for-profits may apply for up to $10,000, and those with the best ideas on how to improve access to farmers markets participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assitance Program (SNAP) will be awarded funding.
In addition, $200,000 in “FreshConnect Checks” will be released this year to serve low-income families across the state, including, for the first time, $50,000 directed to veterans of all ages. Checks will begin being distributed through veterans facilities this summer, based on proximity to eligible farmers markets.
The FreshConnect Checks program encourages the use of SNAP benefits at participating farmers markets by providing $2 incentive coupons for every $5 in SNAP benefits. In 2013, more than $3.2 million in SNAP sales occurred at farmers markets throughout the state. In addition to SNAP, FreshConnect-funded projects aim to ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of income, have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and are encouraged to accept other nutrition incentives, such as Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Fruit & Vegetable Checks, Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks, and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition checks.
The FreshConnect program was the first step in Cuomo’s Farm New York initiative to invest in the state’s agriculture industry, a vital component of the state’s economy. Since its inception, the Fresh Connect Program has funded 80 projects throughout the state and allocated more than $1 million. To apply for funding under the RFP, visit the Department of Agriculture and Markets website at www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html.