State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced Food Bank of Central New York has purchased 428,167 pounds of surplus food from New York farmers since the launch of Governor Cuomo’s Nourish NY initiative in early May. This includes 312,274 pounds of nutritious dairy products, such as fluid milk, cheese, butter, and cottage cheese, and 77,447 pounds of produce, such as apples, tomatoes, strawberries, onions, lettuce, and potatoes as of the end of last week that have been provided to thousands of households in need in the Central New York region.
Commissioner Ball said, “The Nourish NY program has been very successful in connecting our farms and food producers with consumers at a time of extreme difficulty for many farmers and families. Our partnership with Food Bank of Central New York has been crucial in making the link that has helped keep these important businesses going while keeping families fed. I want to thank Food Bank of Central New York for involving so many Central New York producers in the Nourish NY initiative and Upstate Niagara Cooperative for helping to put more New York milk in the homes of people in need.”
The Nourish New York initiative aims to quickly reroute New York’s surplus agricultural products to the populations who need them through the state’s food banks. The state is providing $25 million to food banks and other emergency food providers so they can buy surplus milk, yogurt, cheese, vegetables, fruit and more from New York farmers who have lost markets as a result of school and restaurant closures.
In the last eight weeks, Food Bank of Central New York has held more than 30 distributions in Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, and St. Lawrence counties. The non-profit agency has also continued to supply food pantries and distributions from other organizations throughout this time. Visit Food Bank of Central New York’s website and click the box marked “Find Food” to find and register for distributions, locate food pantries and soup kitchens and to learn more.
Purchases have been made directly from New York produce farms and dairy manufacturers, including Hudson Egg Farm, Queensboro Farm Products, Green Empire Farms, Kriemhild Dairy, Smith Quality Eggs, and Hudsons’ Dairy in Central New York. Products were also purchased from other upstate farms and producers including Marquart Farms, Williams Farms, Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Empire Cheese, Intergrow Farms, Lucki7 Livestock, Crowley Dairy Products, Great Lakes Cheese, Eden Valley Farm, Garelick Farms, Wheatfield Gardens Farm, New York Juice Co. and Chobani.
As part of the Nourish NY program and in addition to its drive-through food distribution events, Food Bank of Central New York has also implemented a voucher program in partnership with Upstate Farms to provide vouchers that people can redeem at stores for milk. So far, 16,000 vouchers have been distributed to residents in the Central NY, Mohawk Valley, and North Country regions through the agency’s 11-county emergency food network to individuals and households seeking food assistance.
Karen Belcher, Interim Executive Director at Food Bank of Central New York said, “We appreciate the continued support and partnership of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets as we continue to meet the increased need in our community. Funding through Nourish New York helps us provide nutritious food from upstate growers and producers to children, families, and seniors struggling with hunger.”
Larry Webster, Chief Executive Officer of Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc. said, “Our cooperative’s farmer-owners are grateful to be able to participate in the Nourish NY program. The vouchers are specifically helpful, as they enable even those food banks that may not have ample refrigeration on site to provide nutrient-rich milk to families in need.”
Lee Hudson, co-owner of Hudson Egg Farms, said, “When there was a need for wholesome food, Nourish NY provided a good outlet for our eggs. We lost half of our business when food service businesses had to shut down. This has been a great opportunity to work with food banks in this period of need.”
Steve Miller, General Manager, Queensboro Farm Products, said, “We are glad we can participate in Nourish NY because people are hurting. It helps to sell more dairy products and the program is giving help to people who need it.”
Doug Hudson, President and CEO of Hudsons’ Dairy, said, “We appreciate the opportunity to work with the Food Bank through Nourish NY to direct our product to people in need. It’s kept our volume up and allowed us to keep all of our employees. Nourish NY has been a great way to promote New York dairy products. Once this crisis subsides, we hope our community will continue to support local dairies and grocery stores.”
The Nourish NY program is administered by the State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York State Department of Health. The initiative is being led by a special task force created by Governor Cuomo, which includes:
- Kelly Cummings, Director of State Operations and Infrastructure
- Richard Ball, Commissioner of Agriculture
- Rossana Rosado, Secretary of State
- Karim Camara, Executive Director of the Office of Faith-Based Community Development Services
- Fran Barrett, Director of Non-Profits
- Mike Hein, Commissioner of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance
The State is asking any philanthropies that would like to help the State’s food banks to contact Fran Barrett, Director of Non-Profits at COVIDPhilanthropies@exec.ny.gov.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York food banks have seen a dramatic increase in demand, in some regions up to 200 percent, as many New Yorkers struggle to put food on the table. At the same time, New York’s farmers and producers have been faced with their own unprecedented extreme financial difficulties. Many have lost up to 50 percent of their markets through the closure of schools and restaurants, leaving them without a place to sell their perishable products.