Farmers’ markets decry cuts to vital SNAP funds

In the wake of proposed federal cuts to nutrition assistance programs, city officials and GrowNYC got together Monday to raise awareness and celebrate the success of farmers markets around the city.

The White House has floated cuts of more than $190 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or food stamps — over the next 10 years, which would devastate city markets.

SNAP use at farmers markets has become a lifeblood for many of them. New Yorkers spent $1 million via SNAP benefits at farmers markets in 2016, nearly a third of which was spent at the Union Square Greenmarket.

“Being able to ensure that people who have SNAP benefits can use their EBT cards in the greenmarkets and other farmers markets around the city is such a crucial part of staying healthy,” said New York City Health Commissioner Mary Bassett.

GrowNYC President and CEO Marcel Van Ooyen warned that the cuts would harm farmers as well as families. Some markets in outer boroughs would be forced to shut down due to their heavy reliance on SNAP usage.

As many as 40% of GrowNYC’s greenmarket customers use SNAP to purchase goods.

“Who doesn’t love fruits and vegetables?” Bassett asked. “Someone needs to get that message to the White House.”

SNAP provides assistance to 1.7 million low-income New Yorkers to help them purchase food, while the Health Bucks program gives SNAP participants coupons for fruits and vegetables for every five dollars they spend.