Renowned Chef and Anti-Hunger Nonprofit Team up with GrowNYC to Promote Use of SNAP Benefits at Farmers Markets


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Nicole Aber, 646-627-7741       

Local Officials Join Hunger Free NYC, GrowNYC at Union Square Greenmarket

SNAP Recipients Can Add 40% Buying Power to Their Benefits by Receiving $2 Extra in "Health Bucks" for Every $5 Spent Using EBT Funds at New York City Farmers Markets

Hunger Free NYC, a division of the national nonprofit organization Hunger Free America, joined GrowNYC Chef and Health Educator David Stample at the GrowNYC Union Square Greenmarket Wednesday morning to promote the use of federally-funded nutrition programs at farmers markets across the city. These programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and the Pandemic-EBT program, which was enacted this year to cover the cost of school meals for families while schools were closed due to the pandemic. 

Hunger Free NYC, GrowNYC, and Chef David are partnering throughout September -- Hunger Action Month -- to make more New Yorkers aware that they may be eligible for SNAP and WIC, and to educate families about how they can use Pandemic-EBT benefits and get the most out of the program. Chef David and Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg discussed the benefits of NYC’s Health Bucks program, which allows SNAP recipients to receive an extra $2 to spend at farmers markets for every $5 that is spent using their EBT funds. GrowNYC and Hunger Free NYC also want to make shoppers aware of the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which allows WIC recipients and low-income seniors to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables at markets.

Every Thursday for the next three weeks, Chef David will be conducting free, virtual cooking classes through GrowNYC Cooks for anyone interested in learning more about how to prepare meals with fresh produce. Berg will join Chef David for tomorrow’s class for an added discussion about food insecurity and action steps that people can take to be an ally in the fight against hunger.

“Our Hunger Action Month virtual cooking classes are designed to be a resource for our neighbors to learn how to best utilize the fresh produce that they purchase in their own backyard at farmers markets,” said Chef David. “We’ll be going over knife skills, peak freshness, safety at the market, in addition to cooking a health-supportive dish each week. I’m excited to start this virtual cooking series, which is completely free and open to home cooks near and far.”

"For nearly 50 years, GrowNYC has been working to expand access to fresh, healthy food for New Yorkers in every borough while, at the same time, supporting regional agriculture," said GrowNYC President and CEO Marcel Van Ooyen. "In his classes, free during Hunger Action Month, Chef David demonstrates how shoppers can use the food grown in our region in simple, delicious dishes."

According to a new poll by The Education Trust-New York, 62 percent of parents citywide expressed concern about their children’s access to food. To date, the Senate has yet to pass the House of Representative’s proposed 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits and an expansion of the Pandemic-EBT program, which would help to reduce hunger as the effects of the pandemic continue.

Berg said, “Federally-funded nutrition programs such as SNAP, WIC, and Pandemic-EBT have been lifesavers for millions of NYC families throughout Covid-19. Hunger Free NYC conducts outreach to make more New Yorkers aware of these programs in addition to providing application assistance for these benefits. These programs are the number one most effective way to decrease hunger, and it is outrageous that the Senate has failed to provide increased funding for SNAP and Pandemic-EBT when half of NYC children are currently hungry. We urge the Senate to act now to provide additional funding for these programs so that New Yorkers can afford food, purchase healthy produce at markets such as the Union Square Greenmarket, and in turn, help stimulate the local economy and support farmers.”

Berg and Chef David were joined by Michael Hurwitz, GrowNYC Director of Food Access and Agriculture, Kate MacKenzie, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy, New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, and Cassandra Agredo, Executive Director of Xavier Mission – a NYC-based nonprofit organization.

Cassandra Agredo, Executive Director of Xavier Mission – a NYC-based nonprofit organization – and Co-Chair of Hunger Free America’s Board of Directors, said, “As the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization that runs both a soup kitchen and a food pantry, I can state unequivocally that, while charities play a vital role in filling gaps in the food system, SNAP and WIC are two of the most important tools in the fight against hunger in America, and, overall, far exceed the effectiveness of emergency food programs. It costs much less, is less labor intensive, and is a more efficient use of time and resources, to give people the money that they need to buy groceries, instead of making them wait in line for a small bag of food that might last them a couple of days. Not only is it more cost-effective, but it is more dignified and respectful. Even the best run food programs often have no choice but to ask people to wait for hours in the rain or heat or cold for the most basic of human needs, which is why it is preferable to enable people to shop for themselves with SNAP or WIC. I am grateful to all my peers who run emergency food programs, but our programs are just band-aids. Society needs to do better.”

Members of Hunger Free NYC’s Benefits Access team were also on site at the Union Square Greenmarket to distribute literature about the SNAP and WIC programs and to assist with pre-screenings for program eligibility. These Benefits Specialists will be stationed at GrowNYC farmers markets throughout September to conduct outreach and answer questions about food aid programs.

New Yorkers in need of food assistance are encouraged to call the USDA National Hunger Hotline, managed by Hunger Free America, to find out where they can go to receive food. The USDA National Hunger Hotline can be reached by phone or text at 866-3-HUNGRY or 877-8-HAMBRE (for Spanish) from Monday through Friday (7 am to 10 pm ET). New York City residents who wish to be connected directly to a Hunger Free NYC Benefits Access Specialist to find out if they qualify for SNAP or WIC can call 646-355-1475 (English) or 347-599-1510 (Spanish) to set up an appointment either in-person or over the phone. Additional assistance is also available from Hunger Free NYC in Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Bengali, Hindi, and Urdu.