Hinchey bill to help food banks is waiting for Cuomo’s signature

File photo of storage at the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.

ALBANY – Senate Agriculture Chair Michelle Hinchey (D-Saugerties) and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz (D-Queens) have announced the passage of their bill to establish Nourish New York, the state’s “farm to food bank initiative” borne from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill creates a permanent state program for distributing surplus agricultural products to food relief organizations statewide. The bill, which passed the State Senate in March of 2021, passed the State Assembly on Tuesday and enjoys unanimous support in both houses of the Legislature.

The Nourish New York program provides state funding to food banks and other emergency food providers for the direct purchase of fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy products from New York farmers and dairy processors, which are then distributed to individuals and families experiencing food insecurity.

Launched in April of 2020, Nourish New York was created in response to the surge in demand at food banks across the state as well as the financial hardships facing farmers affected by supply chain disruptions. Many New York farmers have lost up to 50 percent of their markets as schools, restaurants, and hotels have shuttered, making the program an important alternative revenue stream for the state’s agricultural sector.

Since the program’s emergence, 21 million pounds of surplus agricultural products have been purchased from over 4,000 New York farms and delivered to more than 1.3 million New Yorkers in need across New York State.

“During one of the darkest moments our state has ever faced, Nourish New York emerged as a beacon of compassionate, bipartisan aid to address the surge in food insecurity and assist our struggling farmers who had lost up to 50% of their customers,” said Senator Michelle Hinchey.

Assemblymember Catalina Cruz, bill sponsor of the Assembly legislation, said, “As our state begins to reopen, food insecurity continues to loom over the lives of New Yorkers struggling to feed their families. Nourish NY is a lifeline to the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who depend on food pantries to support their families, as well as the over 4,000 state farms who provide the produce and dairy. This program is a win-win for all, and exactly what our state government should be doing to improve the lives of all New Yorkers.”

The legislation also seeks to address the issue of cold storage as emergency food providers across the state have had to turn away farm products like milk, eggs, and yogurt because they do not have the cold storage capacity to keep perishable food fresh for individuals and families in need. Under the bill, the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture will also be tasked with reviewing and reporting on the need to establish a grant program to fund the purchase of cold storage equipment for emergency food providers.

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