Be Healthy: USDA Leader Promotes Fresh Food Access in the Bronx

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Nicole Stavrinos (left), a culinary nutritional specialist, with USDA administrator Audrey Rowe. (Photo courtesy of USDA)

Audrey Rowe, national Administrator of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), visited the Poe Park Greenmarket on Tuesday to view firsthand the types of projects that bring affordable fresh produce to the Bronx, a borough struggling mightily with high obesity rates.

FNS is responsible for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs or SNAP (previously called the Food Stamp Program). SNAP helps low-income shoppers buy fresh produce at the increasing number of farmers’ markets in New York City.

Rowe is visiting farmers’ markets around the country to promote the mutual benefits of the program.

“I talk to farmers because I want to know what they think,” she said on Tuesday. “They see a real benefit because this is an expanded customer base, so it’s a win-win. People get fresh produce, they get introduced to new foods, they learn how to cook new foods, and farmers get new revenue.”

The USDA is also trying to dispel the myth that low-income families struggling to put food on the table are forced to buy cheaper, less nutritious foods.

“Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive? It Depends on How You Measure the Price,” a recent study by USDA’s Economic Research Service reported that many healthy foods cost no more per portion than foods high in saturated fat, added sugars, and/or sodium.

Nutrition assistance programs are a big part of this change, Rowe said, because they help shoppers and farmers at the same time. “We saw last year an increase of about $6 billion coming in to farmers’ markets nationally as a result of access to SNAP,” Rowe said.

When asked how SNAP could be affected under a different administration, Rowe confidently said, “[SNAP] provides jobs, has economic benefits, and helps make people healthy. I don’t care who you are, when you’re walking into an administration and you hear those three things happening, you’re going to want to continue this program.”

(left to right top) Mike Hurwitz, Director of the Green Markets Programs, GrowNYC; Anthony Jordan, Community Liaison for Congressman Serrano; Joel Berg, Executive Director, New York City Coalition Against Hunger; Kim Kessler, Food Policy Coordinator, NYC Mayor’s Office; Kathy Nonas, Director of Physical Activity and Nutrition Programs, DHMH. (left to right bottom) Alyson Abrami, Manager Farmers’ Market Program, DHMH; Culinary Nutritionists, Stellar Farmers’ Market Program; Audrey Rowe, Administrator for the USDA Food and Nutrition Service; Linda La Violette, Director of Farmers’ Markets, Empire State Development (photo courtesy of USDA)

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