Thursday, July 31, 2008

Queens Families Left Out of Greenmarket Initiatives

For many Queens families, the existence of neighborhood greenmarkets has done little to increase their access to fresh produce.

The greenmarkets in Jackson Heights and Astoria are the only two Queens markets currently accepting food stamps. In addition, the borough has yet to be included in the City's Health Bucks program, which offers $2 greenmarket vouchers to food stamp customers for every $5 spent at a farmers’ market. The Health Bucks program was recently extended to residents of the Bronx, Harlem, and Brooklyn after funding for the program was doubled.

Many neighborhoods in Queens have long been identified as food deserts. However, public perception of the borough may contribute to the unequal service distribution between Queens and other boroughs. "People have the stereotype in their minds about the kind of neighborhoods that this is a problem in, and there's a stereotype of Queens [as] just a middle-class borough," said NYCCAH Executive Director Joel Berg. "A lot of people are struggling in Queens and falling out of the middle class, and a lot of immigrants are coming in who are poor.”

Berg joined Margaret Hoffman of the Council on the Environment in New York City in calling for increased food stamp and Health Bucks program coverage in Queens.

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