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Green Carts: Bringing Healthy Food to New Yorkers

Green Carts: Bringing Healthy Food to New Yorkers

New York City’s Green Cart Initiative brings fresh fruits and vegetables into low-income neighborhoods where access to healthy food has historically been limited. In 2008, the City established the new Green Cart permit so that vendors are able to sell produce in targeted neighborhoods where residents had reported the lowest consumption of fruits and vegetables. 

The goal of the Green Cart Initiative is to increase New Yorkers’ access to healthy, affordable food in order to improve their diets. CCC believes that Green Carts are an innovative way to achieve this goal for children and families who live in NYC’s food deserts (areas where healthy food is scarce).

In 2010, CCC released a report after analyzing the first year of Green Cart implementation.  Through our study, CCC found that Green Carts had a positive effect on the consumption of fruits and vegetables in the communities targeted and that Green Carts were a viable, cost-effective way to achieve this outcome. Last month, the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) issued a report also assessing the impact Green Carts have had on access to healthy food and whether the business is economically viable for vendors.

The research in these reports and in other studies of the program clearly demonstrates that Green Carts are reaching targeted neighborhoods, improving New Yorkers’ access to fruits and vegetables, increasing healthy food consumption, and creating a viable business opportunity for vendors.

These studies have documented Green Carts’ role in bringing fruits and vegetables to children and families. We believe there are several steps the City can take to further strengthen and expand this program, so that there will be more Green Carts throughout New York City’s Green Cart zones. Some of CCC’s recommendations to do this include:

  • Encourage the targeted placement of Green Carts on public property, such as New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) facilities, public hospitals and Child Health Centers. Helping Green Carts to locate on public properties with high foot traffic will further increase low-income New Yorkers’ access to healthy fruits and vegetables and increase vendors’ sales. We suggest targeted placement of Green Carts at NYCHA facilities, public hospitals and Child Health Centers.  Specifically with regard to NYCHA, SIPA’s research supports our recommendation, as it documented that many public housing projects in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens Green Cart zones do not have Green Carts nearby. 
  • Provide technical assistance to Green Cart vendors to improve their capacity to make direct use of the Hunts Point Terminal Market and to facilitate their ability to purchase bulk produce for distribution across several carts. Technical assistance is needed because vendors in both CCC’s and SIPA’s studies reported difficulties acquiring high quality fruits and vegetables in bulk.
  • Facilitate the placement of Green Carts in close proximity to Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and allow for CBO cart adoption and sponsorship. CCC continues to believe that fostering partnerships between Green Carts and CBOs will benefit both Green Cart vendors and the community members that CBOs serve. Community members can learn about and buy healthy food from the local Green Cart. Green Cart vendors can potentially receive a variety of supports from CBOs, including potential use of sheltered space to store carts or locate during winter months – both concerns that vendors voiced to CCC.
  • Equip Green Carts with Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) technology, so vendors can accept SNAP (Food Stamps) at their carts. Vendors who participated in CCC’s focus groups wanted to sell to low-income New Yorkers and said that to do so they needed the ability to accept EBT. SIPA’s researchers found that many vendors still lack this capability, as their study showed that only 27% of Green Carts had EBT machines.

You can read more about Green Carts, as well as CCC’s 2010 report and SIPA’s study, in this recent Capital New York article.

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