How exciting I thought, I have to write a post about it! If writing about this helps even just one person learn about this program, then it is well worth sharing! I thought.
Until June 1, 2010 (yes, that is 26 days from now) folks in New York City with EBT cards (a.k.a. Food Stamps) will receive $3 worth of what they call HealthBucks for every $4 spent at participating Greenmarkets. HealthBucks can be used in lieu of cash for fruits and vegetables at some of the city's Greenmarkets, thereby making fresh, local produce accessable to a wider range of people. I was enthusiastic when I learned about this program because I assumed it was permanent, and just what the good people of this city needed. Clearly temporary, and a nice boost to a few individuals, but not so much worth noting once you've actually read the fine print.
Greenmarkets (farmer's markets in NYC speak) sell the freshest and most delicious produce around, which is reflected in the high prices that a lot of the products carry. The small-scale producers do not charge high prices because they want to, often it's because they have to in order to make ends meet, to scrape by. It is a privilege for a New Yorker to have access to the food sold at Greenmarkets. While there are a number of Greenmarkets that accept payment through EBT, the price of much of the produce is still too high, even for folks with assistance. I will not get into a discussion right now about the lack of access to Greenmarkets, or wholesome food in general for that matter(!) in TOO MANY of our neighborhoods. This is one of the reasons why I get so mad when people lay blame on parents/individuals for serving/eating unhealthy foods. As if there's even a choice.
Now I'm getting heated.
Back to the subject. If you happen to be someone who receives food stamps in New York State via an EBT card, then please take advantage of this program while it lasts. The Greenmarkets participating in this program always accept EBT payment, but right now is the time to get some affordable produce. If you are unfamiliar with the produce that is in season, you can ask for advice on how to prepare foods from the vendors, or at the manager's station where you go to swipe your EBT card in exchange for market tokens.
If you are not currently receiving food assistance from New York State, you may be eligible for EBT. Many people are eligible and don't realize it, or don't feel comfortable asking for help. Either way, if you have trouble paying for groceries, it doesn't hurt to apply.
Info on Greenmarkets that accept EBT: http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/plastic
Info on New York's EBT program: http://www.dads.ny.gov/main/apps/#fs
EBT Application: http://www.dads.ny.gov/main/apps/4826.pdf
I hope this information was helpful to at least someone.