The Union Square Partnership estimates that 350,000 people walk through the plaza on any given market day, searching for seasonal produce, locally grown grains and baked breads, and fresh, sustainable meats. Above it all, rising up from the bustle and activity, is a 21 foot tall pink flag that never fails to draw interest with its simple, three-letter announcement: “EBT”. Over and over, the EBT booth manager on duty will respond in the affirmative to excited passersby when they ask “I can use my EBT card at the famers’ market?” It’s this simple: customers swipe benefits cards at the booth in exchange for wooden tokens that can be used like cash at any of the farm stands. Our booth also serves as a valuable information station where inquiring customers discover the health benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables, where and how to determine if they are eligible to receive assistance benefits, and how the federal program works at the personal level.
In 2013 we expect to exceed $1,000,000 in EBT sales. This tremendous number demonstrates just how great a need and desire exists in New York City for fresh, healthy food. Additionally, EBT has become a critical supplement to farmers who depend on these markets for survival, with some participating farmers reporting that EBT sales comprise between 25-50% of their total income. Critical to the success of the EBT program are the relationships GrowNYC has built. The Food Bank, Met Council and the New York City Coalition Against Hunger set up stations at Greenmarket to help customers determine whether they are eligible for EBT; local WIC centers and senior centers provide information about Greenmarket to their clients; and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene provides Health Bucks to increase buying power of EBT customers. These programs ensure that New Yorkers know that their neighborhood Greenmarket is the best place to purchase nutritious, fresh produce while supporting family farms in the Northeast.