Farmers Markets Thrive in Low-Income New York City Neighborhoods

In New York City, the nonprofit organization Harvest Home develops farmers markets in low income neighborhoods. At present, they operate 19 farmers markets in 4 of the 5 city boroughs, serving about 250,000 customers each year.


Most of the neighborhoods served have a high incidence of diet-related conditions like obesity and diabetes, and the customer base is lower-income people who normally cannot find fresh produce in their local grocery or convenience stores.

Many are immigrants, and Harvest Home realized that holding cooking demonstrations at the markets was a good way to educate people on how to use the produce sold at the market. It’s a win-win for farmers and customers alike.

The market is also set up to accept food stamps, as a majority of customers are on assistance programs.

“Elected officials now have started to rally around supporting the markets, because they have seen the benefit to their constituents.

In 2009, the department of health came out with a new incentive program for SNAP, that for every $5 you spend at the market using SNAP, you get an additional $2 coupon.

That mechanism was to promote and incentivize people to come into the market and use their food stamps,” Maritza Owens, CEO of Harvest Home says.

Teaching the Joy of Cooking

“People don’t know how to properly feed themselves,” Paige Balius, facilitator for Sustainable Food Center’s The Happy Kitchen, says. “At worst, they outsource it to a restaurant. At best, they follow some fad diet advice they found in a magazine.”

The fact of the matter is, if you’re not cooking your own food, it’s really difficult to eat healthy. The Happy Kitchen,2 located in Austin, Texas, started in the late 1990s. At that time, the organization ran farm stands in low-income neighborhoods.


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