Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced One World Trade Center, the Kosciuszko Bridge, SUNY Plaza, the State Education Building, the Alfred E. Smith Building, and the Great New York State Fair's Exposition Center will be lit orange this evening, September 10, in recognition of Hunger Action Day and Hunger Action Month. New York State has taken decisive action to combat food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the launch of the Nourish New York program statewide and a pilot partnership with HelloFresh to provide fresh meals to veterans, military families, and other residents in New York City.
"COVID-19 has intensified the difficulties that many New Yorkers face when it comes to putting food on the table, and it is the most vulnerable among us who have suffered the most," Governor Cuomo said. "Lighting our landmarks orange during Hunger Action Month honors the hard work of those across the state who are dedicated to fighting food insecurity, and reminds every New Yorker that they can offer a helping hand to combat hunger this month and every month."
To provide direct food assistance to the families impacted by COVID-19, the Governor announced on April 27 the launch of the Nourish New York Initiative, which helps food banks buy food from New York farms and distribute it to those in need across the state. Through this multi-agency effort, the State directed $25 million to New York's network of food banks and other emergency food providers for the purchase of surplus milk, yogurt, cheese, vegetables, fruit, and more, supporting both families facing food insecurity and the State's food producers who have lost markets as a result of school and restaurant closures.
As of this week, New York's food banks have purchased and distributed more than 9.9 million pounds, or $12.8 million worth, of surplus New York agricultural products. Nearly 600,000 households have been helped by the almost 2,500 Nourish New York food distribution events held, including drive through events, food boxes programs, and school meal deliveries.
In addition, in response to the Governor's call for assistance from philanthropies and New York citizens, funding has been provided to help New York State emergency food providers purchase refrigerators/freezers to boost their capacity to store dairy items, meats and other perishable foods. The addition of this equipment is critical to the food banks and emergency food providers' ability to meet increased demand from New Yorkers in need.
New Yorkers are encouraged to contact their local food bank at https://feedingnys.org/our-member-food-banks/ to find out how to get involved in Hunger Action Month and help their local communities.
Additionally, the Governor recently announced a partnership with HelloFresh, the world's leading meal kit delivery company, to further combat food insecurity amid the pandemic. HelloFresh, in collaboration with the New York State Division of Veterans' Services and community partners, will provide over 200,000 fresh meals to veterans, military families and other residents in New York City who are experiencing challenges putting food on the table as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Each week, volunteers with Black Veterans for Social Justice and The Campaign Against Hunger pack and assemble HelloFresh meal kits consisting of fresh, high-quality ingredients, recipe cards, and a bag of fruit. The meal kits are packed at TCAH's Brooklyn headquarters and distributed free-of-charge, with the help of the New York City Department of Veteran's Services, to veterans, service members and their families, and other New Yorkers who have been adversely impacted by COVID-19.
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball said, "This year, Hunger Action Month comes at a challenging time, which is why it's especially important that we honor the hard work that many New Yorkers do every day to help put food on the table for those who need it most. Seeing our landmarks lit in orange tonight will be a great reminder of all the great work that has been done this year through the Nourish New York initiative and other programs, and will inspire others to join in the effort."
Dan Egan, Executive Director of Feeding New York State said, "The ten food banks of Feeding New York State have responded to the pandemic by increasing our food distribution to over 144 million pounds in the first four months of the crisis. This is over a 50% increase from the same four-month period last year. No New Yorker should be forced to worry about where their next meal is coming from. We are proud of this achievement and grateful to Governor Cuomo for his Nourish New York initiative. Nourish New York has enabled us to strengthen our partnerships with New York's farmers, distributing more of their high-quality food to New Yorkers in need. Our partnership with state agencies has been top notch. We look forward to the future of this program."
Randi Shubin Dresner, President and CEO of Island Harvest Food Bank, said, "This year, Hunger Action Month takes on additional meaning as scores of New Yorkers have sought emergency food resulting from the economic calamity created by the pandemic, many for the first time. Thanks to Governor Cuomo's Nourish New York initiative and other feeding programs, hunger-relief organizations across the state can provide critical food support for people who are struggling to put food on their tables."
Joel Evans, Executive Deputy Director of the New York State Division of Veterans' Services said, "During these unprecedented times, the problem of food insecurity faced by veterans and military families is exacerbated. It is because Governor Cuomo understands these difficulties faced by those who serve that this partnership with HelloFresh developed. It is a joining of forces between the public and private sector to help remedy the concern of food insecurity for New York's veterans and their families. This effort during Hunger Action Month ensures more veteran families are accessing fresh and healthy foods as well as the benefits they earned in service to our nation."
CEO of HelloFresh U.S. Uwe Voss said, "HelloFresh is more committed than ever to making fresh food, including fruits, vegetables, and proteins available to those who need it most. We are proud to support the great work of Governor Cuomo and the Nourish New York initiative to combat food insecurity during this very critical time by providing assistance to New York veterans and families in need."
Jeffrey Crist, 4th Generation Farmer and President of Crist Brothers Orchards, and member of the Council on Hunger and Food Policy, said, "As one of the many farms that helps to feed the people of the world, we have a strong commitment and ongoing effort to assist communities wherever there's a food security issue. We at Crist Brothers Orchards are supportive of the various New York State programs that combat food insecurity, and are proud to join together in recognition of Hunger Action Month."
These initiatives build on New York State's long commitment to the fight against hunger. The State has launched several groundbreaking programs in recent years, including the Council on Hunger and Food Policy, Vital Brooklyn, and the No Student Goes Hungry initiative, to combat hunger, improve access to healthy, locally grown foods and bring New York-grown foods and beverages to underserved communities.
The Council on Hunger and Food Policy works across various State agencies and sectors to identify new policies and programs to improve access to fresh, nutritious, local food across New York State and to help strengthen ties and cooperation between programs addressing hunger and those who produce and supply food. The Council has supported many creative efforts to combat hunger, including advocating for a tax credit for farmers donating to food banks and helping to launch the Governor's No Student Goes Hungry Initiative, which expands access to free breakfast and increases the reimbursement schools receive for lunches for any district that purchases at least 30 percent ingredients from New York farms.
Through the Vital Brooklyn initiative, the State has also brought healthy food to residents of Central Brooklyn, one of the most disadvantaged areas of the State. New York State has invested nearly $2 million in new programs and initiatives to increase access to nutritious food in Central Brooklyn, including the mobile markets program, food insecurity screening for seniors, youth run farmers' markets, community gardens and a food distribution hub siting study.
The State, under the direction of the Governor, also expanded the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), extending eligibility to more families. The Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) was extended through 2020, and the State's FreshConnect program and New York State's Farm-to-School Program have also been expanded since the programs began.