Queens lawmakers announce funding for vital food link secured in state budget

Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz distributed food to her constituents during the hardest months of the pandemic and then went to work to secure funding for the Nourish NY program. (Photo by Dean Moses)

After she spent months distributing food to families in need during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz and her colleague Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal of northeast Queens championed efforts to increase funding for Nourish NY, a highly successful program connecting New York’s agricultural sector with food distribution efforts across the state.

The two lawmakers spearheaded the effort to make the program permanent as rising food insecurity continues to affect millions of New Yorkers in the wake of the global pandemic. Their advocacy efforts had broad support from more than 50 members of the Assembly on both sides of the aisle, from all regions of the state.

Cruz and Rosenthal announced Wednesday that funding was doubled in the final state budget, bringing the total commitment to the program to $50 million. Cruz represents Corona, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, all of which were ravaged by the coronavirus emergency.

“I watched helplessly as my constituents were the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. My district already suffered from food insecurity issues long before we became the epicenter of the epicenter,” Cruz said. “This program is a win-win for all parties. The upstate agricultural industry, also hit hard by the pandemic, receives a financial lifeline, while those in the state who need it most can count on receiving their next meal.”

In the past year, the NY Nourish initiative has sustained more than 4,000 farms that were economically impacted by the closings of restaurants and schools during the shutdown, and distributed over 17 million pounds of fresh produce and food to warehouses, social services agencies and food pantries.

“Nourish NY has been a lifeline for New York families,” Rosenthal said. “Supporting the expansion of this program is commonsense policy, and I am proud to see our efforts come to fruition in doubling state funds for this initiative. This would not have been possible without support from Assemblywoman Cruz and the countless advocates who fight everyday to ensure every New Yorker has access to adequate and nutritious food.”

The final deal was reached as part of a monthslong negotiation between the governor’s office and the Legislature.