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State Health and Agriculture Commissioners Commemorate National Nutrition Month and Kick off Spring Farmers’ Market Season in New York State

Agencies Highlight New and Existing Initiatives to Help New Yorkers Live Healthier Lives

March 26, 2015 - Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today held a press conference in Rochester to commemorate National Nutrition Month in New York State. At the event, which took place at the Rochester Public Market, the Commissioners kicked off spring farmers’ market season in New York and highlighted some of the initiatives offered by a number of state agencies to help New Yorkers live longer and healthier lives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults in New York are including fruit in their diet only once a day and vegetables one to two times a day. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans designed by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services recommends consuming five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

“Like the rest of the country, New Yorkers are deficient in the amount of fruits and vegetables they’re eating,” said acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. “Good health hinges on good nutrition, which includes eating a well-balanced diet rich in produce, lean proteins and healthy unsaturated fats. Encouraging better nutrition is not always easy, but it remains a priority, and New York’s many farmers’ markets are a great place to get the nutritious foods we all need to maintain a healthy diet.”

“Here in New York, we grow some of the best and healthiest agricultural products anywhere in the world and National Nutrition Month is an opportunity to showcase the benefits of eating healthy to all New Yorkers,” said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball. “Our agency has big plans this year, including a continuation of our work to expand markets for upstate producers with downstate consumers, as well as new features related to our hugely successful FreshConnect Farmers’ Market program. Interest in New York agriculture has never been higher and the good news for consumers is that nutritious, homegrown products are available in every region of the state.”

Rochester’s city-run, year-round public market was chosen for this announcement because it has served the community since 1905 and offers fresh produce from an array of local vendors. In addition, a variety of independent local businesses are located on the market grounds and in the surrounding market district. New York State, through Governor Cuomo’s Regional Council initiative, has awarded the Rochester Public Market $2 million for master plan implementation and renovations that will increase vendor sales by more than $8 million annually and create hundreds of additional jobs.

In 2014, New York State ranked second in apple production, third in grape production fourth in pear production, fifth in tart cherries, eighth in sweet cherries, ninth in strawberries, and eleventh in peaches and blueberries. New York is also a national leader in the production of milk and dairy products as well as maple syrup.

The State Department of Health (DOH) today announced that children, and pregnant or breastfeeding women participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) will receive an increase in the amount of fruit and vegetables that they can purchase each month. WIC, the federally funded nutrition program, currently provides $8 per month for children and $10 per month for women to purchase fruits and vegetables of their choice. Beginning in March, DOH will use state funds to increase the benefit by $4 per check per month through September 2015.

Additionally, DOH sponsors multiple initiatives that encourage greater consumption of fruits and vegetables, including:

  • The Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program, which contributes $29.7 million to provide more than 200 million meals to those in need. HPNAP policies ensure that healthy foods such as fresh produce and low-fat milk are available through eight regional food banks and their affiliated food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.
  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which provides supplemental food, nutrition education and breastfeeding support for 500,000 low-income women and children. Foods provided through WIC are lower in fat, higher in fiber and include fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk and whole-grain breads and cereals.
  • The WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, which is implemented with the Department of Ag & Markets, provides “checks” to 270,000 WIC participants to redeem at participating farmers’ markets throughout the state from July to November every year.

Through its FreshConnect Farmers’ Market Program and participation in federal farmers’ market initiatives, the State Department of Agriculture and Markets also sponsors a number of programs to encourage specific populations to eat healthier. This year, the FreshConnect Farmers’ Market Program will include:

  • $60,000 in incentives for veterans to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets and farmstands. $20 checks be distributed to veterans and their families through various veterans’ centers across the state beginning in July.
  • More than $50,000 for Farmers’ Market Manager Certification training. This is a direct deliverable from Governor Cuomo’s Upstate-Downstate Farm-to-Table Agriculture Summit. New York State, in cooperation with the Farmers’ Market Federation of New York, will roll out a curriculum by fall 2015 to improve the quality and performance of farmers’ markets across the state. These courses will help build the talent pool for current and future market managers in all aspects of administering a farmers’ market.
  • $150,000 to support key market projects in food deserts throughout the state that bring farm fresh products to targeted, high-need areas.

These initiatives will aid the work/goals of Governor Cuomo’s Rochester Anti-Poverty Task Force, which began discussions in early March on how to advance plans to combat poverty and fight inequality in the Rochester area.

In addition, both the federal WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program provide incentive checks for families in the WIC program and low-income seniors to purchase locally-grown, fresh produce at farmers’ markets and farmstands. These programs will again kick off beginning in early summer.

The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), coordinates the Eat Smart New York program which provides nutrition education through a network of state and local providers. Individuals eligible for SNAP can receive educational materials and attend classes to learn about topics like eating healthy on a budget, smart shopping for fruits and vegetables, and healthy meal planning.

“Many families are concerned about the rising cost of food, but eating healthy does not need to be expensive,” said OTDA Executive Deputy Commissioner Sharon Devine. “And help is available to make sure all families can develop the skills needed to establish healthy eating habits and physically active lifestyles.”

Rochester’s city-run, year-round public market was chosen for this announcement because it has served the community since 1905 and offers fresh produce from an array of local vendors. In addition, a variety of independent local businesses are located on the market grounds and in the surrounding market district. New York State, through Governor Cuomo’s Regional Council initiative, has awarded the Rochester Public Market $2 million for master plan implementation and renovations that will increase vendor sales by more than $8 million annually and create hundreds of additional jobs.

National Nutrition Month is an initiative sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that focuses on the importance of developing healthy eating and physical activity habits.

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