In a tour of Brooklyn on Wednesday Speaker Quinn announced a proposal to subsidize greenmarkets by allocating $81,000 "to encourage more people to use their food stamps at farmer's markets." The money, according to yesterday's NY Times, would be used to equip farmers "with handheld scanners to read electronic food stamp cards."
As the Times reports "few farmers have scanners, which cost about $1,000 each." Of course they don't. They also don't pay any rent and compete against the local markets that are paying not only rent but also a whole slew of taxes that pay the salaries of elected officials who feel it's OK to subsidize the competition of tax paying retailers.
The Speaker's position, meritorious in the abstract, is that it is important that "all New Yorkers have access to fresh nutritious food." We agree and we'd point out that, for the most part, local supermarkets are doing a good job in this area. The approach of the city's DOH is also an acceptable one-create educational and outreach programs so stores in low income neighborhoods, as well as their customers, understand the importance of stocking healthy foods.
Subsidizing non-tax paying peddlers is not the best approach to this health issue. We hope that the Speaker will realize this and devise a beter approach to addressing healthier eating.