Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday announced $1.5 million in funding for Feeding New York State to support its network of 10 regional food banks, as well as local farms, to help provide milk and produce to food insecure New Yorkers.
The funding, made available through the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, is in response to the increased need for food bank services due to the economic and public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also support the state’s ongoing efforts to prevent food waste.
“If you look back in history, sometimes it takes a crisis to wake people up,” Gov. Cuomo said. “This crisis has put food insecurity — an issue far too many Americans are unfortunately familiar with — on full display, and not only are we paying attention, but we’re taking action to help ensure New Yorkers are not going hungry and have access to fresh, healthy food.”
The funding will enable Feeding New York State to increase the amount of shelf-stable milk processed and distributed to the regional food banks by an estimated 900,000 gallons; and source and transport approximately 6.7 million pounds of quality, New York-grown produce to regional food banks.
COVID-19 is having devastating effects on New York’s food donation and distribution system, a release from the governor’s office said. Feeding New York State’s network of 10 regional food banks are experiencing increased demand for food up to 200 percent. In addition to this increase in customer demand, food banks are dealing with significant backlogs on food purchases that typically supplement donations. Simultaneously, New York farmers and dairy processors lost markets for dairy and produce sales, resulting in wasted food and milk. This funding will provide food banks and farmers the needed additional logistics and transportation support to distribute food to people in need, all according to the release.
The announcement supports the $25 million Nourish New York initiative announced by Gov.Cuomo in May, which targets surplus agricultural products to the New Yorkers who need them most through the state’s network of food banks. The state Department of Agriculture and Markets is working to quickly reroute surplus agricultural products to those who need them most through New York’s network of food banks.
“In just a few months, the Governor’s Nourish NY program has redirected millions of pounds of surplus milk and produce from our farms to the communities who need them most,” state Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said. “This additional funding from DEC will support the Nourish NY program and the critical work of our food banks by increasing their ability to process and transport this healthy, nutritious food and keep it moving through the food supply chain.”
Feeding New York State helps feed millions of people each year through more than 5,000 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other programs, the release stated. It was formed in 2004 to represent the food banks and assist them with education efforts and to obtain funding. Feeding New York State supports the missions of these regional food banks: ensuring that every person in every community has access to good, healthy food; fostering food insecurity awareness; and helping to encourage donations and volunteer support.
“Our 10 food banks in New York are grateful for the opportunity the DEC is giving us,” Feeding New York State Executive Director Dan Egan said. “New Yorkers who have lost their incomes should not have to fear hunger, especially at a time when our productive farmers have nutritious produce and dairy products on hand. Without this funding, much of that food would have gone to waste, impacting the environment. We are now able to be customers for New York’s farmers, and provide that top quality food to our neighbors in need.”
New York has long been committed to the fight against hunger, the release from the governor’s office stated.
Friday’s grant announcement also builds upon more than $4.3 million announced by the governor earlier this year for projects across the state that will help prevent hunger and reduce the disposal of food waste though food donation and recycling. The grants followed the success of the 2019 Food Donations and Food Scraps Recycling law signed by the governor, which requires all designated food scraps generators to first donate edible food to those in need and to recycle food scraps if a viable recycling facility is located within 25 miles.