As the city reopens after the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, the battle against food insecurity continues across Queens and the state.
While many of their colleagues in government are relaxing following the frenzied close to the legislative session in Albany on June 10, Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz joined forces with two upstate senators at the Queens Museum Thursday, June 17, in support of a measure that would establish a permanent program for distributing surplus agricultural products to food banks, similar to the Nourish New York model, to combat levels of hunger not seen since the Great Recession.
“At the height of the pandemic, food lines stretched for miles with no end in sight and without a permanent or sustainable product source,” Cruz said. “My district was the epicenter of the epicenter, and without a permanent food pantry, we watched as food insecurity issues only became more severe. The bill provides a permanent state pipeline to put food on the table for those that need it most.”
The bill directs the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to provide financial and technical support for the development of a permanent initiative to provide distribution of agricultural products through a network of food banks and other emergency food providers statewide. The measure envisions an expansion of the current, pandemic-specific program and would also complement related efforts, such as the Farm-to-School program.
“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 of food insecurity and assist our struggling farmers, many of whom had lost up to 50 percent of their customer base,” Hudson Valley state Senator Michelle Hinchey said. “Nourish New York demonstrates what’s possible when we work together, regardless of party or geography, to help our communities survive. Connecting the dots between families in need and farmers looking to reach new markets is the kind of innovation we want for the long term. Now that both houses of the legislature have unanimously passed our bill to make this great state program a permanent fixture, we need to get it signed into law.”
Nourish New York launched in April 2020 and an additional $50 million was allocated to the program in late October to continue the program through the end of the year.
“While the COVID crisis is ending, the problem of food insecurity is ongoing, which is why it is urgent that the Governor sign this measure into law as soon as possible,” Republican state Senator George Borello, of upstate Chautauqua County, said. “This will provide certainty to our agricultural partners and food banks so that they can move ahead with planning their budgets and operations for next year.”