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City to expand SNAP rewards programs to stores in underserved nabes

snap rewards programs
Expansions to two SNAP incentive programs aim to make fresh and frozen produce more accessible to in-need New Yorkers.
Photo by Rose Adams

The city is looking to pair needy New Yorkers with struggling small businesses through an innovative expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — giving money to economically-burdened citizens that can be redeemed at local mom-and-pop shops throughout the Five Boroughs. 

The new program, which utilizes federal dollars recently granted by President Joe Biden’s administration, will help keep food on the table for city dwellers while providing assistance to participating grocery stores, such as Three Guys from Brooklyn on the border of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, said the leader behind the effort.

“We want to increase participation in this program to benefit New Yorkers more, while also supporting small businesses, like Three Guys, as well as farmers and farmers markets,” said Michelle Morse, the deputy commissioner for the Center of Health Equity and Community Wellness and chief medical officer of the city’s Health Department.

The two new programs, Get the Good Stuff and Health Bucks, allow SNAP recipients to redeem extra spending money for fresh and frozen produce every time they purchase healthy items. For Health Bucks, participants can get a $2 coupon for every $2 spent at farmers markets, while Get the Good Stuff allows recipients to get an extra dollar to their card for every dollar spent on fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits, vegetables, and beans at participating grocery stores.

Shoppers with food stamps can collect up to $10 of incentives per day using Health Bucks at farmers markets, and up to $50 in incentives per day using Get the Good Stuff at supermarkets. 

Under the four-year program expansions — which were funded by a $5.5 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture — the Health Department will add eight more grocery stores to the Get the Good Stuff program by working with the city’s task force on racial inclusion and equity to identify the neighborhoods hardest-hit by COVID-19 and income inequality. 

The grant will also fund the added benefits to the Health Bucks program. Rather than getting a $2 coupon for every $5 spent at farmers markets, SNAP recipients can now get $2 coupon for every $2 spent.

The additional stores and incentives hope to help locals struggling with food insecurity amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has not only caused unemployment rates to skyrocket, but also makes access to a whole and healthy diet more important than ever.

“We’re really, really honored to be awarded this funding because this is such a unique program. We know that New Yorkers are suffering tremendously from the inequities that have come with COVID and the economic downturn that has come with COVID,” said Morse at a press conference outside Three Guys from Brooklyn.

An owner of Three Guys from Brooklyn, a participating grocery store on the corner of 65th Street at Fort Hamilton Parkway, said that the program has helped bring in customers and boost revenue.

“About 20 percent of our sales comes from SNAP, so the program goes very far here,” said a managing partner at the shop, Philip Penta, who added that the Get the Good Stuff program gradually gained traction. 

“It took a little while for it to catch on, but we’ve definitely seen an increase in people coming in to use it,” he said. “A lot of people coming in, asking, ‘Where can we get this pink card? We read about it, we saw it on a website.’ So definitely an increase in revenue for sure,” he said. 

Health Bucks can be redeemed at all New York City farmers markets, and Get the Good Stuff incentives can be redeemed at these grocery stores: 

  • Three Guys from Brooklyn: 6502 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 
  • Fine Fare: 459 East 149th Street, Bronx, NY 
  • Fine Fare: 3550 White Plains Rd, Bronx, NY 
  • Fine Fare: 675 Morris Avenue, Bronx, 10451 
  • Cherry Valley: 2870 Webster Avenue, Bronx, 10458
  • Fine Fare: 89-45 163rd Street, Queens, NY 

As of October 2020, there were nearly 2.8 million SNAP recipients across New York, an 8 percent increase from the same month in 2019, according to the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Service.

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