The newly introduced Fresh2You initiative in New York State’s FreshConnect program is designed to offset post-pandemic reductions in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. It is simultaneously geared toward helping families in need and supporting local farmers’ markets.
On Wednesday, April 12, governor Kathy Hochul announced the Fresh2You program, which will provide SNAP-eligible New Yorkers with a dollar-for-dollar match on healthy food at local farmers’ markets, including on produce, dairy, eggs, fish and meats. Participants in the program will be provided with $2 checks for every $2 spent through SNAP, an increase in the initial FreshConnect initiative. of $2 for every $5 spent.
Two Ulster County farmers’ markets leaders, Alexis Nigro, operations manager with the Kingston farmers’ market, and Masha Zager, a committee member of the Saugerties farmers’ market, praised the program expansion.
FreshConnect is also available to veterans and current service members and their immediate families, with veterans eligible to receive $50 in FreshConnect coupons through the NYS Department of Veterans’ Services. The program is administered by the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, expanding access to fresh, healthy food to underserved communities across the state.
“New York has taken significant steps to develop strong, mutually-beneficial relationships between local farmers and the communities they feed,” Hochul said in her press release.
The Fresh2You initiative was touted in the governor’s press release by Diane Eggert, executive director of the Farmers’ Market Federation of New York.
“This gives [consumers] a tremendous boost to their buying power and encourages them to shop directly with farmers at the many farmers markets across the state,” Eggert said. “This gives the program a double benefit by assisting those with SNAP benefits to eat a more healthy diet rich in local foods, while at the same time it boosts the sales of foods grown and produced by local farmers, helping to sustain local agriculture.”
There are more than 400 farmers’ markets, 250 farmstands and ten mobile markets across New York State, with each serving as a local marketplace where consumers and farmers can come together.
Alexis Nigro of the Kingston farmers’ market lauded the plan this week, noting that the market was already equipped to handle the FreshConnect program.
“This is really exciting for a lot of people within the market space, both for SNAP customers and people who use those services, as well as all of our vendors and farmers,” said Nigro. “Because the more people that come to the market and the more money that’s spent at the market, it’s going to help support our local farmers and our local food economy.”
The Kingston Farmers’ Market runs indoors at the Old Dutch Church at 272 Wall Street every other Saturday, with the last winter market scheduled for April 22. Beginning on May 6, it will be open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through November 18 in the county courthouse parking lot at 285 Wall Street.
Nigro said many SNAP-eligible customers at the Kingston market weren’t aware of the FreshConnect program, and it’s been a welcome surprise to many of them.
“They want to take out $20 in SNAP [funds], and we end up giving them more than that — and, you know, no one’s going to deny that,” she said. “So it really will affect all of our SNAP customers, which is awesome.”
Masha Zager of the Saugerties market was also enthusiastic about the Fresh2You initiative. “FreshConnect has always been a valuable benefit for our community and our farmers, and the Fresh2You initiative will make it even more valuable and important, especially in a year when SNAP benefits are being reduced,” Zager said.
The weekly Saugerties farmers’ market will open on Saturday, May 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 115 Main Street in the parking lot across the street from Cahill Elementary School.