(WBNG Binghamton) New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday announced the release of a $130,000 Request for Proposal for the “FreshConnect” Farmers’ Market program, which assists New York farmers by promoting the sale of locally-grown food products.
According to a news release:
The program, in its fourth year, focuses on bringing fresh farm products to nutritionally-underserved communities and improving nutrition education statewide.
“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,” Governor 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 be 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, over $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.
Acting Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets Richard Ball said, “FreshConnect Farmers’ Markets are just one more way that Governor Cuomo continues to open new markets for New York’s agricultural producers. Our producers are blessed to be farming in close proximity to large urban markets with consumers who are hungry for fresh goods. These markets are true economic drivers for farmers that also provide some of the best agricultural products in the entire world.”
Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Kenneth Adams said, “The State’s agriculture industry is a vital component of New York’s economy, and it's important to support our local farmers. FreshConnect has had great success in not only promoting locally grown food products, but also improving nutrition, job creation and serving as the critical link needed to bring healthier food options to underserved communities around the State.”
Commissioner of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Kristin Proud said, “By bringing healthy, locally-grown fruits and vegetables to underserved communities, the FreshConnect program is serving a vital need while promoting better eating habits. Additionally, the FreshConnect Checks initiative offers a real incentive for recipients of SNAP benefits to shop at farmers’ markets and serve fresh, healthy foods to their families.”