Our network of farmers markets, Youthmarkets, Fresh Food Box pick-ups, and Greenmarket Co. ensures that all New Yorkers have access to the freshest, healthiest local food.
While GrowNYC/Greenmarkets SNAP initiative has proven to be a huge success, resulting in expanded access, increased sales, and growing satisfaction from both farmers and customers, this was not always the case.
In 2001, Congress mandated that SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) be converted from paper coupons to Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. While the new electronic debit style EBT card was a step forward in increasing program efficiency, reducing fraud and decreasing stigma for using SNAP, the devices needed to process EBT cards required electricity and a phone line not found outside where farmers markets usually take place. Farmers markets that once redeemed thousands of dollars in SNAP became limited to cash and FMNP sales, reducing access to fresh produce and preventing farmers from accessing the billions of dollars of federal EBT money that flows into the city. When GrowNYC opened Greenmarkets in neighborhoods where 50% of the community received SNAP and families were desperate for fresh foods, this digital divide prevented EBT clients from being able to use their SNAP benefits.
In 2005, GrowNYC bridged this divide by partnering with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to implement a pilot payment model at three Greenmarkets. Rather than encouraging individual farmers to purchase a wireless terminal, the market manager operated a central terminal where EBT cards could be swiped in exchange for tokens to be spent at market. With continued funding from the New York City Council, Greenmarket expanded the program to six additional markets in 2006 and saw sales increase from $1,000 to $14,000.
For more information see A History of SNAP in GrowNYC's Farmers Markets.