NEW YORK STATE – Legislation connecting farms to food banks in New York is almost law, as supporters of the bill wait on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature.
Co-sponsored by State Senators George Borrello and Michelle Hinchey, alongside Queens Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, the Nourish NY bill was pushed through the statehouse with a unanimous vote.
Borrello, speaking with WNY News Now on Friday, explained that the program has been a pandemic lifeline for food insecure New Yorkers and struggling farmers across the state.
“This pandemic did expose how fragile New York’s food supply chain is. We had to rely on other states and other countries, and then those supply chains were cut. It really laid bare how critically important New York agriculture is,” remarked Borrello.
The legislation allows for Nourish NY, which was established in April of 2020, the height of the pandemic, to be permanently recurring and also includes a $50 million budget, double what it originally was.
“We had situations where farmers were dumping milk and letting crops rot in their field while we had food banks that couldn’t supply enough food for the people that were so desperate to feed their families,” furthered Borrello. “It’s about how critical it is to people’s survival.”
Food banks, especially those in New York City, have been struggling to secure consistent produce and healthy food for the people that they served during the pandemic.
Borrello explained, “Going forward, we needed a program that everybody could count on, that our farmers could plan for, that our food banks could budget for, and that ultimately would provide not only locally-grown fresh vegetables, but a market for all that surplus food that our farmers have.”
This is how the program works: The budget is split up and distributed to food banks across the state depending on a variety of factors including size, need, and the number of people served. In turn, the food banks can take the money allocated to them and go to local farmers to purchase crops and produce from them.
“We want[ed] those fresh fruits and vegetables that provide the nutrients, the nourishment, that these families need, and at the same time provide that income and a market for those farmers,” said Borrello.
The last step before the program becomes an enduring fixture in New York is to acquire a signature from Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Senator is asking residents across the state to lobby the Governor by sending a message on his website, via email, or calling his staff asking for the executive to sign the bill.