Improving Healthy Food Access in Clinton CountyNYHealth awarded the Clinton County Health Department a grant to execute a comprehensive strategy to address the barriers that North Country residents face in accessing healthy food.
Clinton County Health Department
Building Healthy Communities
November 2015 – November 2017
Poverty in Clinton County is exacerbated by geographic isolation—it is one of the most rural counties in New York State. People in the community travel farther for nearly everything, including healthy foods.
In 2011, the county (about the size of Rhode Island) had only 24 grocery stores, and only half of them were WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) authorized. High food prices and transportation issues also are barriers to healthy food access for residents. The Clinton County Health Department (CCHD) works to make Clinton County a healthier place to live for its 80,000 residents. NYHealth selected CCHD as one of its six Healthy Neighborhoods Fund grantees, playing the lead role in coordinating a multipronged approach to improve the health of its residents.
NYHealth awarded CCHD a grant to execute a comprehensive strategy to address the barriers that residents face in accessing healthy food.
Outcomes and Lessons Learned
- Surveyed local food producers to identify what prevented them from accepting nutrition incentive benefits, which help low-income families and individuals purchase healthier foods, including more fresh produce from farmers markets.
- Provided technical assistance to help food producers become eligible to accept nutrition incentives.
- Increased the number of farmers markets and farm stands that accept at least one nutrition incentive, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and WIC, and electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards by nearly 50%, from 12 in 2015 to 21 in 2017.
- Offered farmers mini-grants to increase crop production; EBT benefit acceptance; collaborations with local restaurants and schools to serve local produce; and/or farm stand or market locations across the region.
- Helped more than 60% of farmers expand the number of locations where they sold their produce, including pop-up locations that serve residents living in public housing and senior housing developments.
- Increased the number of locations where locally grown fruits and vegetable are sold by 19%.
- Designed and implemented Farm Fresh Cash, a local nutrition incentive program that supplements purchases at participating farmers markets and stands. Participants receive an additional $1 toward the purchase of additional produce for every $1 spent on fruits and vegetables.
CCHD recruited 26 farmers markets and farms stands to accept Farm Fresh Cash vouchers from participants. CCHD also conducted a survey, which showed that nearly 50% of Farm Fresh Cash participants who had previously reported rarely or never visiting a farmers market or farm stand started frequenting them more regularly after attending the program’s nutrition education sessions and receiving the vouchers.
Farm Fresh Cash’s success in increasing the purchasing of fresh fruits and vegetables by low-income residents in Clinton County has led to an influx of State funding to continue support for the program. New York State Medicaid has allocated $25,000 for Farm Fresh Cash in 2019.
Sales data did show an upward trend in EBT transactions; these types of transactions rose by 30% by the end of the grant period. A challenge to even further uptake was the time constraints faced by some farmers, who found it difficult take time away from running their farms to learn more about EBT procedures.
This project has helped to create such a demand for more fresh produce, particularly in the city of Plattsburgh, that as part of a downtown revitalization effort, a new farmers market pavilion to accommodate more vendors and for year-round use is scheduled for construction in 2020.
Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: An additional $25,000 in funding has been leveraged through the New York State Medicaid program.