New York State Commissioner of Agriculture Richard A. Ball announced that Feedmore WNY, the hunger relief organization serving Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties in Western New York, achieved a milestone as its purchases of surplus milk and food through the Nourish New York program passed 800,000 pounds since the start of the emergency food program in May. This includes 174,231 pounds of milk and dairy products and 462,241 pounds of produce, such as such as cabbage, green beans, salad greens and prepacked produce boxes of apples, cucumbers, potatoes, squash, onions, peppers and tomatoes. FeedMore WNY also purchased meat and surplus shelf-stable commodities with these funds, the agency’s purchases of New York agricultural products totaling $1.6 million to date.
In addition, Feedmore WNY has implemented a voucher program in partnership with Upstate Niagara Cooperative that has so far provided people the opportunity to receive more than 34,000 half gallons of milk at cooperating retail outlets.
Commissioner Ball said, "By connecting people and producers during a time of severe economic difficulty, Nourish New York is making a big difference -- keeping farm businesses alive and bringing food to those in need. I commend Feedmore WNY for involving Western New York farms in this important effort to feed their communities."
Tara A. Ellis, president and CEO of FeedMore WNY, said , “FeedMore WNY has distributed nearly 10 million pounds of food since the pandemic hit the Western New York region – a 47 percent increase compared to what we usually distribute this time of year. As FeedMore WNY continues to work tirelessly to respond to the increased need for food assistance in the community as a result of the pandemic, we are grateful for the partnership of New York State and the Nourish New York program. Because of this critical program, we have been able to provide a variety of nutritious food to hungry children, families and older adults throughout Western New York.”
Governor Cuomo's Nourish New York program provides $25 million to the state's emergency food providers to help them buy surplus products from the state's farmers and producers, who lost markets for their products due to the pandemic. Those agricultural products are then provided to New York consumers, many of whom were thrown into financial crisis by the COVID-19 outbreak, at drive-through food distributions, and through food box and school meal programs.
Kevin Richardson, Vice President of Sales and Operations for Agbotic Inc., said, "Agbotic Inc. extends our appreciation to Governor Cuomo, his administration and FeedMore WNY for their efforts regarding the Nourish New York program. During a time of uncertainty, this program was a lifeline for local growers. Through this partnership, we are able to provide more than 400 pounds of organic produce each week to hungry community members who rely on FeedMore WNY. The Nourish New York program has also been critical in ensuring our business and hardworking employees can continue to operate during this pandemic."
Since the beginning of the Nourish New York program in May, Feedmore WNY has held 285 mobile food distributions in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara Counties. The non-profit agency has also continued to supply food pantries and distribute food from other sources. Information on upcoming distributions, food pantry locations, and more can be found here.
Through October 21, Nourish NY has provided funding to New York’s food banks to purchase more than 14.1 million pounds of surplus products. Food banks across the state have purchased more than $17.5 million in Nourish NY product from New York’s processors and farmers who have temporarily lost markets as a result of COVID-19.
The state has also launched a new Nourish New York web page to more easily connect food banks with New York’s farmers who have product available for purchase. The website allows farmers to submit product available for purchase and allows food banks to easily search for agricultural products that are in need. For more information, email [email protected].
The Nourish New York 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 [email protected].
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.