New York food banks received $25 million this week to spend on agricultural products grown in the Empire State, as upstate farmers struggle to make ends meet amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have a problem in upstate New York where many of the farms can’t sell their product. You had a lot of farms that were literally just dumping milk that the dairy farms had produced,” Cuomo told reporters during his daily coronavirus briefing Thursday.
“But at the same time, you have people in downstate New York who are going hungry and can’t buy, can’t pay for enough food. Tremendous demand on food banks, so we’ve been putting the two together. It makes no sense to have upstate farmers who can’t sell their product and downstate families that can’t get enough to eat,” he said.
The governor rolled out the “Nourish New York” program several days ago, but provided more details on how the $25 million food bank funding tucked into the state budget would be used.
Dollars are being split up by eight regions, and then filtered through a network of major food banks from New York City to Buffalo.
New York City is getting the biggest slice, at $10,997,554, followed by the Capital and Hudson Valley Region receiving $4,357,115 and Western New York at $2,129,463.
Roughly 50 food banks selected by the state Department of Agriculture are purchasing goods such as dairy, fruit and vegetables from 2,100 farms across the state.
Food banks are planning drive-through and small-scale warehouses pick-up events, and are also rolling out a voucher program for individuals to purchase dairy products in grocery stores, officials said.
“The food banks have had a longstanding relationship with farmers, but this only adds to that and provides income to farmers who are needing to move products because of lost markets and supply chains that were upended,” Steve Ammerman of the New York Farm Bureau told The Post, adding the “New York Pause” closure of restaurants has rerouted traditional supply chains, leaving farmers with too much product.
“At the same time, it’s getting fresh food to people all across the state,” he said.
Cuomo said this will feed around 20,000 households within the next week.
State purchasing estimates over the next six months by food banks include:
- 2.8 million gallons of milk
- 8.2 million units of yogurt
- 10.1 million pounds of apples
- 10 million pounds of cabbage
“The volume of food and product that is not being wasted that is supporting upstate farms and helping downstate families is tremendous. We want to continue doing that. The state budget is very, very tight right now with what’s going on with the economy,” Cuomo added.
New York City officials also released $25 million in emergency funding in early April as Big Apple soup kitchens, food pantries and charities have been hard pressed to keep up with feeding the hungry.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has even cautioned around two million of the city’s 8.6 million residents could go hungry from the coronavirus pandemic, as unemployment soars.
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