In 2005, the Health Bucks program was developed by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. A combination of NYC agencies funds the Health Bucks program. The District Public Health Offices (DPHOs, satellite public health offices in the three highest need areas of the city) distribute Health Bucks to community organizations and farmers’ markets in surrounding low-income neighborhoods. Community organizations can apply to receive Health Bucks for distribution to their clients as an incentive to support nutrition education and other health promotion activities and to encourage first-time shoppers to visit neighborhood markets.
Market managers at participating farmers’ markets who operate the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT)1 terminals distribute Health Bucks to SNAP (food stamp) users as an incentive for them to purchase additional fresh produce. At these markets, SNAP consumers receive a $2 Health Buck for every $5 in EBT spent at the farmers’ market — effectively a 40% increase in purchasing power.
Over the past decade, as more markets accept EBT, the number of farmers’ markets in the City has increased. Health Bucks are distributed as an incentive to use SNAP benefits (EBT) both to increase farmer profit and to support healthy purchasing among New York City SNAP customers. In 2012, the Health Bucks program expanded city-wide and can be redeemed in all farmers’ markets instead of in selected neighborhoods
Intended Population: Residents of low-income neighborhoods and SNAP participants.
Secondary Audience: Local farmers. Health Bucks add to the income of local farmers and help support the local agricultural economy.
Setting: Farmers’ markets and community-based organizations.
Length of Time in the Field: In 2005, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene piloted the program in the South Bronx and then expanded the program to Brooklyn and Harlem in 2006. Since the program began, the number of participating markets has grown rapidly from approximately 5 in 2005 to 138 in 2012.
1 EBT – Electronic Benefit Transfer - an electronic system that allows recipients to authorize transfer of their government benefits from a federal account (formerly food stamp, now SNAP funds) to a retailer account to pay for products received.