Expanding a Farm Box Program for Low-Income Residents
Healthy Food, Healthy Lives
November 23, 2021
Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that satisfies their dietary needs and food preferences.
The link between food and health is clear. Nutritious food can act as medicine, helping to prevent and manage disease. But too much food, too little food, food that is not nutritious, or food that is not culturally appropriate can have serious health consequences. NYSHealth’s Healthy Food, Healthy Lives priority area works at the intersection of health and food to improve access to healthy and affordable foods, reduce food insecurity, and promote equity. To help leverage new and existing opportunities that promote promising policies and scale best practices, NYSHealth issued a Request for Proposals (RFP), “Advancing Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives.” Through this RFP, NYSHealth is supporting organizations across New York State working to improve food and nutrition quality; increase access to healthy and affordable food; and grow participation in food benefit and nutrition incentive programs. In 2021, NYSHealth awarded BluePrint Geneva a grant to participate in this initiative.
Under this grant, BluePrint Geneva will expand its Just Harvest program, a locally sourced cooperative for customers enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP allows recipients to use their benefits on boxes of seasonal farm produce and products, but current U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules require SNAP customers to purchase these products at a farm or farmers market. Transportation and cost issues create barriers to accessing healthy food for SNAP recipients and low-income residents of the City of Geneva, and there are no grocery stores within the target area that BluePrint Geneva serves. As a solution, BluePrint Geneva received approval to process SNAP benefits. In addition to working with local farmers to provide weekly boxes of meat, it will also include dairy and produce options for eligible customers. BluePrint Geneva will distribute the boxes weekly from a central, convenient location for eligible community members. This project will help establish a workable model for the region, with BluePrint Geneva acting as a small food hub, purchasing wholesale, local agricultural products. It will also serve as a model for the USDA as the agency continues to make adjustments to the SNAP program, making it easier for users to have better access to healthy, local food.