Expanding Affordable Healthy Food Options in New York CityNYSHealth awarded GrowNYC a grant to help it meet growing demand for fresh, local foods in underserved communities in New York City.
Council on the Environment, Inc., dba GrowNYC
Building Healthy Communities
March 2016–April 2018
GrowNYC is home to the Greenmarket farmers market program, made up of more than 50 farmers markets spanning the five boroughs of New York City.
For more than 40 years, GrowNYC has been an innovator in making healthy, local foods available to more New Yorkers—it was the first in the nation to integrate the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) into its farmers market program. Greenmarket Co., another innovation, is GrowNYC’s food hub and distribution program. It is a major food source to a diverse array of sites around the City, including community-based organizations working in NYSHealth Healthy Neighborhoods Fund communities. Greenmarket Co. creates a place for local farmers to sell their products while increasing access to fresh, local foods to underserved communities. Businesses and community-based organizations are increasingly eager to source more local food through Greenmarket Co. In response, Greenmarket Co. increased its annual food distribution and operations, and more capacity was needed to keep up with growth.
In 2016, NYSHealth awarded GrowNYC a grant to meet increased demand, as well as to further ramp up in anticipation of a new Greenmarket Regional Food Hub in the South Bronx.
Outcomes and Lessons Learned
- Brought on additional staff members from the communities it serves for its sales and procurement departments.
- Broadened relationships with community partners, City agencies, and farmers.
- Expanded its food distribution across New York City by 27%, with almost 872,000 more pounds of food distributed.
- Grew its customer base by 13% to include 75 new organizations.
- Tripled the number of community-based organizations it was able to serve, including new partnerships with Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, day care centers, and local food pantries.
With additional capacity, GrowNYC was able to improve the quality, efficiency, and impact of its operations. For example, it identified new suppliers that resulted in higher-quality produce, such as carrots and onions. It also was able to expand its schedule to receive deliveries from various farmers, which in turn increased its distribution capacity and volume for fresh, local foods. This increase in reach and sales boosted revenue, which allowed GrowNYC to fully sustain the additional staff members, as well as promote existing staff members, by the end of the grant period.
NYSHealth’s initial investment in GrowNYC’s capacity leveraged $15 million in capital funding from New York State for construction of the Greenmarket Regional Food Hub, which will be used by Greenmarket Co. This new state-of-the-art food distribution facility will greatly increase access to fresh, healthy food for New Yorkers when it opens in 2020, and by 2025, it is expected to generate more than $14 million annually. Located in the South Bronx, the Hub will redefine the City’s food landscape, resulting in expanded and affordable food options.
NYSHealth is continuing to support GrowNYC during this important transitional time. In 2019, NYSHealth awarded GrowNYC a second grant to meet increased demand and prepare for the opening of the Hub. NYSHealth funds will support technologies and marketing to expand GrowNYC’s Fresh Food Box and Youthmarket programs, particularly in the Healthy Neighborhoods Fund communities of East Harlem, Brownsville, and the Lower East Side. GrowNYC will also ready itself for the move from its current 5,000-square-foot warehouse to the Hub’s 75,000-square-foot facility—a quadrupling of space that will allow for greater scale and efficiency while lowering freight costs. GrowNYC expects to grow its total food distribution by 30,000 pounds annually, as well as generate an additional $220,000 in profit over the course of the next two years, which in turn will reduce its dependency on private funding.
Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: NYSHealth’s investment leveraged $15 million from New York State in capital funds for the Hub.