The NYT’s Cityroom blog offers some hopeful news on getting more healthy food into low-income neighborhoods:
Food stamp purchases at the city’s Greenmarkets have more than doubled in the last year, due in large part to publicity campaigns and the addition of more farmers’ markets to the program.
Food stamp sales from July to November, when the stamps are valid at the markets, doubled to $226,469 in 2009 from $100,772 in 2008, according to numbers released by the City Council on Sunday. While that is but a small fraction of the $200 million that New York’s surging food stamp population receives in benefits each month, it can represent a significant portion of business for farmers. In some low-income neighborhoods, food stamps can make up 70 percent to 80 percent of sales at the markets, according to the report.
A drop in the bucket compared to total food stamp sales, yes, but a solid demonstration that farmers markets can play an important role in getting more fresh food into the hands of inner city residents. These figures were helped, no doubt, by a “coupon” program that gave food stamp recipients $2 for every $5 they spent at the farmers markets. Cityroom may call it a coupon, but it’s a healthy food subsidy pure and simple. And that kind of subsidy program is absolutely key to changing buying patterns on a larger scale.