Name of Vendor: Grass Roots Farmers’ Market
Award Name: Communities Putting Prevention to Work: Category A (Obesity)
Administered By: Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Grass Roots Farmers’ Market, operated by Sonya Simmons and run by several community members, focuses on improving the health of the residents in the neighborhood of Central Harlem in New York City by providing fresh and affordable local produce.
The market has been in operation for five years and accepts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits via Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) coupons.
Grass Roots Farmers’ Market also accepts and distributes Health Bucks, a financial incentive program administered by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to encourage people to use their food stamps (EBT) at farmers’ markets. For every $5.00 of EBT spent at a participating farmers’ market, the customer receives a $2.00 Health Buck to purchase fresh produce – representing a 40% increase in purchasing power.
Since Grass Roots Farmers’ Market is a participant in the Health Bucks Program, they were eligible to apply and were subsequently awarded the stimulus-funded Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) EBT Promotion Mini-Grant to support their market, specifically the operation of an EBT terminal to accept food stamps (SNAP).
With major construction in the area and a high resident turn-over rate, the market also needed assistance in promotion. Grass Roots Farmer’s Market has used the stimulus funds to hire an EBT manager and promote EBT use via promotional materials, such as banners and signs to direct people to the market. Since accepting and distributing Health Bucks coupons, Grass Roots Farmer’s Market has observed a significant increase in sales.
Sonya Simmons notes, “We would like to see more people enjoying fruits and vegetables and overall living a greener lifestyle. We are very pleased with the response to our market and feel that we are helping change the lifestyles in our community. The grant has opened the door for us to effectively inform the community of their options. We observe weekly the choices that people make in regards to food and we are happy to serve with the usage of EBT and Health Bucks.”
Grass Roots Farmers’ Market will continue to promote the use of food stamps past the term of the contract by training their employees on proper EBT handling in order to sustain their efforts for future seasons.