New York City Receives Over $3 Million From U.S. Department of Agriculture to Expand and Evaluate Health Bucks

June 8, 2016

The $3.37 million grant to Health Department will expand access to fresh, locally grown produce for low-income New Yorkers

Health Bucks increases the affordability of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables for low-income New Yorkers

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced that the Health Department received $3.37 million from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant program to expand and evaluate Health Bucks. Health Bucks, $2 coupons redeemable for fresh produce at all New York City farmers’ markets, increases the affordability of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables for low-income New Yorkers. The Health Department and its partners will contribute matching funds representing a $7 million commitment to helping make high quality fruits and vegetables more affordable for New Yorkers who struggle to buy food.

“New York City is deeply committed to reducing hunger, and has moved to increase funding for those in need to purchase high-demand food items in larger quantities,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “With this federal investment to expand Health Bucks, we can continue to make local, fresh produce and other nutritious food options more accessible to low-income residents.”

“All New Yorkers deserve access to nutritious and affordable food for themselves and their families, regardless of where they live,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “This grant will enable more New Yorkers to afford locally-grown, farm fresh fruits and vegetables. New York City’s FINI project will increase funding for Health Bucks and test new strategies that increase the ability of all families to buy healthy foods.”

“New York City strives every day to build a stronger, more resilient regional food system that addresses the food needs of City residents and supports farmers in the region,” said Barbara Turk, Director of Food Policy at the Office of the Mayor. “With this funding, more New Yorkers than ever before will benefit from increased ability to afford healthy food, while local farmers will benefit from increased demand for high quality fruits and vegetables.”

Health Bucks are distributed as a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit at more than 120 farmers’ markets across New York City. For every $5 a SNAP participant spends using their EBT card at the market, they receive one $2 Health Buck coupon representing a 40 percent increase in purchasing power. Health Bucks is the largest City-run fruit and vegetable incentive program in the nation. Over the last 10 years, low-income New Yorkers across the city have used Health Bucks to purchase more than $2.5 million worth of fresh produce from New York City farmers’ markets.

The funding will support expansion of the Health Bucks season from five months to year-round so SNAP participants who shop at the City’s farmers’ markets using their EBT card can receive Health Bucks every month of the year. New York City will also participate in a nationwide study comparing the effectiveness of different incentive levels on fruit and vegetable consumption and will launch two pilot programs to expand the distribution of incentives. The pilot projects include testing innovative models of incentive distribution, including a pharmacy-based fruit and vegetable prescription program, and a healthy retail store incentive program.

“When the Health Department and GrowNYC created the first food stamp incentive program in the nation back in 2007, we never imagined that it would become a national model. Today’s announcement proves that pilot programs can eventually have big payoffs. We are deeply grateful to the USDA for helping us grow the Health Buck program by awarding the City of New York a FINI grant. SNAP incentive programs that focus on farmers markets not only increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables, they provide much needed revenue to small family farms. They are the ultimate win, win,” said Marcel Van Ooyen, President and CEO of GrowNYC.

“Wholesome Wave has been pleased to partner with the Health Department since 2013 to improve access to healthy, affordable food for NYC residents struggling with low incomes. We are excited that FINI will enable us to both support the City's excellent work to expand affordable access to healthy foods, and develop innovative models identifying the best ways to improve fruit and vegetable consumption through incentives that make them more affordable,” said Michel Nischan, CEO and Founder of Wholesome Wave.

The Health Department’s grant is one of many announced as part of the larger $16.8 million allocated for the FINI grant program this year to increase SNAP participants’ purchase and consumption of fruits and vegetables.

The Health Bucks program was launched in 2005 and was one of the first fruit and vegetable incentive programs in the United States. Health Bucks enhance the viability of farmers’ markets, especially those located in low-income communities, by making produce more affordable for shoppers, fostering community connections and promoting the markets. Independent research has found that farmers are more likely to sell at markets that accepted Health Bucks and that Health Bucks increased customer traffic and purchasing at the markets. Health Bucks has been recommended as an evidence-based strategy for environmental change in the USDA’s 2013 SNAP-Ed Strategies and Interventions: An Obesity Prevention Toolkit for States. More than 385 community-based organizations distributed Health Bucks to their clients as part of nutrition and health programming in 2015. Organizations and individuals can purchase Health Bucks coupons to distribute through the Fund for Public Health in New York. For more information, please visit www.fphny.org.

For more information about the Health Bucks program, please visit nyc.gov/health. To find a farmers’ market near you, text “SoGood” to 877-877.

###

pr519-16

MEDIA CONTACT:
pressoffice@cityhall.nyc.gov, (212) 788-2958