In Light of Proposed Federal Budget Cuts to Nutrition Assistance, Health Department, Human Resources Administration and GrowNYC Highlight Record Benefits Redeemed at Greenmarkets

President’s budget proposes to cut SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, by more than $190 billion over the next 10 years — a more than 25 percent cut

Customers spent over $1 million in SNAP benefits at GrowNYC farmers markets in 2016, an increase of over $70,000 from 2015

1 in 5 New Yorkers use SNAP, including more than 650,000 children

June 12, 2017 — Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett, Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks and GrowNYC President and CEO Marcel Van Ooyen today highlighted the record-breaking $1 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits redeemed at New York City farmers markets in 2016, an increase of over $70,000 from 2015 and a striking contrast to the $1,000 processed in 2005, the first year that Greenmarkets accepted SNAP. President Trump’s budget proposes to cut SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, by more than $190 billion nationwide over the next 10 years — a more than 25 percent cut. It is unclear how the cuts would be implemented.

The proposed federal budget cuts could also compromise the Health Department’s Health Bucks program, which gives SNAP participants $2 coupons to spend on fruits and vegetables for every $5 spent in SNAP benefits. Health Bucks is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Program and City dollars. In 2016, the Health Department distributed more than $328,000 in Health Bucks at farmers markets to SNAP participants. With one in five New Yorkers participating in SNAP, including more than 650,000 children, Health Bucks fills a critical need by extending food dollars by 40 percent and providing more fresh fruits and vegetables to those who need them the most. To meet customer demand — and thanks to a 2016 grant from the USDA — the distribution of Health Bucks was expanded from between July and November to being year-round this year. Over the last 10 years, New Yorkers have used Health Bucks to purchase more than $3 million worth of fresh fruits and vegetables.

“SNAP is a critical program that puts food on the table for 1.7 million New Yorkers, including hundreds of thousands of children,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Cutting SNAP funding is a cruel proposal. It will leave many families hungry and at risk of preventable diseases, like stroke and heart disease, and will push back the progress that the Health Department, Human Resources Administration, and GrowNYC have achieved in making sure New Yorkers have access to healthy food.”

SNAP sales

“Healthy food should be within reach of everyone, regardless of economic need,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “Many New Yorkers who otherwise would not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables do now thanks to SNAP and Health Bucks. We encourage our SNAP clients to continue supporting this program because it promotes healthy food choices while contributing to the regional economy.”

“We are thrilled that SNAP sales at Greenmarkets, Youthmarkets, and Fresh Food Box sites continue to increase,” says GrowNYC President and CEO, Marcel Van Ooyen. “And we are deeply grateful that the New York City Council has, again, dedicated funding to support the acceptance of SNAP at Greenmarkets, as it’s done since the inception of the program, so that all New Yorkers have access to healthy, regional food for themselves and their families. SNAP is now accepted — and Health Bucks are available all year long — at every one of our Greenmarkets.”

“SNAP and Health Bucks are crucial to help low income New Yorkers afford nutritious food, which improves their lives and their health,” said Director of Food Policy Barbara Turk. “The record SNAP dollars spent at farmers markets in 2016 is a testament of the tremendous need for nutrition assistance – budget cuts will be a setback and leave many poor families without access to healthy foods.”

“Programs like SNAP and GrowNYC help make sure no child in America goes to bed hungry and that our kids have access to healthy food. It also supports our upstate farmers. President Trump’s proposed budget cruelly proposes to cut this vital program -- and pulls the rug out from children, the working poor and the elderly -- even while it rewards the very wealthiest among us with unneeded tax cuts. Fresh and affordable food shouldn’t be a luxury for New Yorkers and that’s why I will do everything in my power to protect SNAP from this harsh cut,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer.

“Kicking people while they’re down is a rotten approach to life,” said Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Nutrition. “But that’s exactly what President Trump’s budget does. His heartless plan would gut nutrition assistance programs that seniors and veterans turn to when they’re having trouble putting food on the table. Sadly, it’s no surprise that he let his one-percent friends write a budget at the expense of everyone else, but I hope my Republican colleagues have the guts to stand up to him and say enough is enough.”

“Since day one I've supported nutrition assistance programs like SNAP and Health Bucks because they support local farmers, create jobs, fight food insecurity and help New Yorkers access fresh, healthy foods. Cutting this program is just wrong — it would hurt New York families and take food from the mouths of those who need it the most," said Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Member of the House Subcommittee on Nutrition.

“It is simply outrageous for the current administration in Washington to propose such inhumane cuts to the SNAP program, especially when millions of low-income and working families need them to make ends meet,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “The proposed funding reductions could compromise programs such as GrowNYC Healthy Bucks, which would further restrict critical access to healthy food options for the most vulnerable among us. I will not stand idly by while Congress continues to make decisions that will drastically diminish the quality of life for millions of New Yorkers.”

In 2016, about 62 percent of SNAP dollars at Greenmarkets were spent on fresh fruits and vegetables, 12 percent on baked goods and grains, 9 percent on cheese, milk and other dairy products, 7 percent on maple syrup, honey and preserves, 7 percent on meat, poultry and eggs and 3 percent on fish. Of all farmers’ markets in New York City, the Union Square Greenmarket had the highest SNAP sales at over $311,000 in 2016, a 12 percent increase from 2015. SNAP users who shop at the Union Square Greenmarket come from over 85 different zip codes across the city.

GrowNYC operates 51 permanent and seasonal Greenmarkets in the city, including the soon-to-open market at Fordham Plaza in the Bronx, and the reopening of the World Trade Center Greenmarket site. All GrowNYC Greenmarkets accept SNAP and Health Bucks.

To increase awareness of SNAP benefits, the Health Department and GrowNYC launched educational campaigns promoting Health Bucks and Greenmarkets. GrowNYC’s “Oh SNAP!” campaign for subways and buses raised awareness about the acceptance of SNAP at all Greenmarkets throughout the city. The Health Department’s targeted outreach campaign promoted Health Bucks to SNAP recipients on bus shelters and laundromats closest to farmers’ markets in high-need neighborhoods. The campaign will re-air this month on the subway.

FINI is supported by a four-year, $3.8 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to the Fund for Public Health in New York City, which works as a fiscal agent and partner to the New York City Health Department to implement programs that protect and promote the health of New Yorkers.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Stephanie Buhle, (347) 396-4177
pressoffice@health.nyc.gov