Updated 07/02/2012 08:14 PM
"Health Bucks" Program Encourages Food Stamp Use At City Farmers Markets
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A program aimed at getting more fruits and vegetables on New Yorkers' tables is now under way at all of the city's 138 farmers markets.
As part of the "Health Bucks" program, participants get an extra $2 worth of free produce for every $5 spent.
The "Health Bucks" are $2 coupons to be used toward the purchase of fruits and vegetables.
The city estimates the program will provide about $350,000 in free food for low-income New Yorkers.
"The obesity epidemic has unfolded over the last 40 years. People haven't changed during that time, people's genes haven't changed during that time. What has changed is our environment. We have much greater accessibility of high-calorie snack foods than we did 40 years ago,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, the city health commissioner.
"To make sure that every green market in the city takes Health Bucks means New Yorkers will have a much greater chance of getting more healthy food on a regular basis," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who already made headlines with his plan to ban large, sugary drinks, said the Health Bucks initiative fits in with that plan.
"If you drink the same number of calories, you don't get full at all. That's one of the problems. If you eat bad stuff, at least it fills you up. If you drink bad stuff, it doesn't fill you up, so it's an additive kind of thing,” Bloomberg said.
Local farmers welcomed the increased benefits and spending power of roughly 1.8 million New York City food stamp recipients.
"The small farmer has been helped out, where he isn't big enough to wholesale to the Walmarts or the big grocery stores, he can come here and sell his product too. So, it's a two-fold thing,” said Joe O’Brien, a farmer.
Electronic Benefit Transfer machines or EBTs, where low-income residents receive the coupons, will be at 125 of the 138 markets. Those that do not have machines will still accept the coupons through November 15.
To find a farmer's market near you, visit nyc.gov.