Federal food assistance programs such as SNAP have been shown to significantly reduce food insecurity. However, many SNAP users have reported difficulty in accessing and affording nutritious foods, and consumption of fruits and vegetables in SNAP households remains significantly below recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. One promising approach to addressing these challenges are nutrition incentive programs, which are designed to improve access to fruits and vegetables among low-income populations by reducing the cost burden of these foods. Nutrition incentive programs work by providing recipients with more purchasing power to be used on fresh produce.
How it works: The Half off Farm Box is a program of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and according to the the official website, “New Yorkers who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can get a pre-assembled box of locally grown farm fresh fruits and vegetables for half off the price of a full box. Prices vary by site. Each box contains six to 10 items and must be pre-ordered one week in advance.”
To get a Half Off Farm Box:
- Pre-order your box one week in advance at participating sites (some sites allow for online pre-ordering).
- Swipe your EBT card.
- Return the following week to pick up your box of farm fresh produce.
Where it works: SNAP recipients may receive a Half off Farm Box by signing up through GrowNYC, Children Aid Society Go! Healthy Food Box, Seeds in the Middle Fresh Food Box, Corbin Hill Food Project, and Red Hook Farms. To see a list of food box locations, please visit the official site for Half off Farm Box.
Recipients: SNAP recipients qualify for Half off Farm Box.
Year Started: The Half Off Farm Box began in July of 2021.
Results/Progress: Between July of 2021 and January 2022 the program has distributed over 4,400 half-price farm boxes.
- Half Off Farm Box (NYC Health)
- GrowNYC Fresh Food Box (GrowNYC)
- Eat Smart New York (Children’s Aid)
- Seeds in the Middle Brings Fresh Produce Programs to Food Insecure Areas of Brooklyn (Bklyner)
- Corbin Hill Food Project: NYC Based Community Organization Spotlight (Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center)
- Social Impact (Corbin Hill Food Project)
- Fresh Food Farm Box (Red Hook Initiative)
How it works: According to the Harvest Home Official Website, “The Healthy Seniors Healthy Shoppers (H2S2) program provides nutrition incentive vouchers to seniors 60+ years of age who receive less than $200/month in SNAP. Eligible seniors receive $4 in H2S2 vouchers to purchase produce at our markets.” H2S2 vouchers are distributed at Harvest Home farmers market locations.
Where it works: H2S2 vouchers can be used at all Harvest Home farmers market locations. Markets are open from June to November. To find a market near you, please visit the Harvest Home Find a Market Portal.
Recipients: Seniors 60 years old and older and who receive less than $200 a month are eligible for H2S2 vouchers.
Year Started: Harvest Home was founded in 1993. The Harvest Home’s Health Senior Shoppers Program began in 2016.
Results/Progress: Between June of 2016 and May of 2020, the Healthy Seniors Healthy Shoppers Program (H2S2) provided $48,842 to seniors in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan to purchase farm fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Harvest Home Programs (Harvest Home)
- Harvest Home 2020 Annual Report (Harvest Home)
- Harvest Home Farmers’ Market: NYC Food Based Community Organization Spotlight (Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center)
- Harvest Home Farmer’s Market Returns to the Bronx (BronxNet)
- NYC Health + Hospitals Expand Access To Affordable Healthy Food Options With Annual Farmers Market (Harlem World)
- Harvest Home Farmer’s Market Hopes to Erase NYC’s Food Deserts (Honest Cooking)
- Harvest Home Farmer’s Market: Making Local Agriculture Accessible to All (Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)
How it works: As found on the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets website: “The FreshConnect Checks Program supports local farmers by providing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) consumers with a way to increase their purchasing power at New York State farmers’ markets, and by providing a direct incentive for veterans, service members, and their immediate families to use the benefits at New York State farmers’ markets, farm stands, and mobile markets.”
- The program provides $2 incentive coupons for every $5 in SNAP benefits spent with participating farmers’ markets, increasing the purchasing power of SNAP consumers by 40 percent. Farmers’ markets that enroll and participate in the New York State Wireless EBT Program may be eligible to issue the $2 coupon to SNAP customers.
- FreshConnect Checks are also distributed to active duty members, veterans and their immediate family members at most Division of Veteran Service Offices on a first come first serve basis between July and December. Recipients receive $20 worth of FreshConnect Checks for redemption at participating farmers’ markets and farm stands.
Where it works: FreshConnect Checks can be used at participating farmers markets, farm stands, and mobile markets in New York State. Partner markets that issue FreshConnect Checks can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Markets list.
- SNAP recipients qualify for FreshConnect checks for eligible purchases made at partnered farmers’ markets using SNAP/EBT.
- FreshConnect Checks are distributed to active duty members, veterans and their immediate family members at most Division of Veteran Service Offices on a first come first serve basis. To locate a Veterans Benefits Advisor, call 888-838-7697.
Year Started: The FreshConnect Checks program began in 2011.
Results/Progress:. In July 2021, the Department of Agriculture and Markets announced that more than $600,000 was available to help low-income families enrolled in SNAP, as well as Veterans, Servicemembers, and their immediate families who participate in the FreshConnect Checks Program. In 2022, the New York State Office of Mental Health received funding to expand the FreshConnect Checks program and distribute checks to residents of housing sites with mental illness.
- FreshConnect Checks Program (Department of Agriculture and Markets)
- FreshConnect Checks for Veterans and Families (New York State Division of Veterans’ Services)
- OMH receives grant to expand access to fresh produce to people with mental illness (New York News 10)
- NYS Launches Program to Bring Fresh Food to People With Mental Illness (The Auburn Citizen)