ALBANY - FreshConnect grants will go to 34 projects around the state that will increase access to New York farm products for residents in low-income and underserved areas.
"This is really a win-win situation for farmers and for families across the state as we try to provide more access and easier access to locally grown, fresh farm products," Governor Andrew Cuomo said. "These FreshConnect grants will support creative solutions to get New York farm products to underserved areas of the state, creating new economic opportunities for our farmers while, at the same time, providing healthy options for more New Yorkers."
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. The FreshConnect program was launched last year to create new farmers' markets and support existing markets that provided fresh produce to high-need areas. With this round of funding, the program will have helped a total of 48 projects throughout the state bring New York farm products to communities in need.
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, the program received over 121 proposals and is providing funding to the top projects that exhibit local innovative solutions to connect communities in need with New York farm products. Examples of funded projects include:
- Farmers’ markets and youth-operated farm stands that will be created or expanded to better serve low-income residents in food deserts
- Subsidized Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares or low-income CSA programs that will introduce over 100 new families to weekly deliveries of fresh fruits and vegetables
- The introduction of EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) services for the first time at 13 farmers’ markets to allow these farmers markets to accept Food Stamps, along with plans to increase Food Stamp purchases through promotion and incentives
- Free transportation services to help increase traffic at existing markets and allow those with limited resources an opportunity to attend and shop at a farmers’ market
- Improving distribution of locally grown, fresh food to food pantries and congregate feeding programs
Applicants received extra points in the competitive ranking process for including a food donation program in their proposed project. As a result, nearly all recipients of FreshConnect funding will be coordinating a local food donation program to connect food pantries or food banks with New York farm products, as part of their funded project. All FreshConnect projects will accept Food Stamps, if applicable, and are encouraged to accept Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Fruit & Vegetable Checks, Farmers' Market Nutrition Program coupons, and Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition coupons, to ensure that all citizens have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, regardless of income.