Newly Authorized Group Holds Second Meeting Following Successful Regrouping, Finalizing Recommendations for Report to the Governor
Additional State Programs Support Council’s Work to Bring More Local Food to New York Schools and Combat Food Insecurity
Governor Kathy Hochul today, during Farm-to-School Month, highlighted the work of the State’s revitalized Council on Hunger and Food Policy, which was recently formalized in statute and officially charged by the Governor to provide recommendations to the State on ways to increase the use of healthy and locally grown foods in school meals, expand food access to underserved communities, and boost agricultural production and processing. The Council’s work additionally supports the Governor’s priorities and advances many State initiatives that promote the resiliency of New York’s food supply chain and bring more New York foods to New York families in need.
"While we have emerged from the immediate crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, its effects are lasting, including the need for our families, schools, and communities to access enough fresh, local foods," Governor Hochul said. "Through New York’s Council on Hunger and Food Policy and other innovative programs aimed at alleviating food insecurity stress and streamlining our food supply chain, we can make a difference to combat hunger and improve nutrition across the State, while supporting our agricultural community at the same time."
New York’s Council on Hunger and Food Policy is made up of 25 stakeholders and several affiliates including representatives from government entities, farmers, not-for-profit organizations, agricultural operations, universities, and food businesses. The Council works to provide state policymakers with expertise on how to address hunger and improve access to healthy, locally grown food for New York State residents and school children. Previously operating under Executive Order since its establishment in 2007, Governor Hochul signed a into law a bill codifying the Council in November 2022.
Chaired by Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball, the Council held its second meeting yesterday. The Council’s formalization has encouraged new momentum for the group, including its five working groups, which continue to draw external stakeholders to the conversation and work towards concrete opportunities and recommendations for New York State. The working groups have increased their commitment to the Council’s overall mission, now meeting once per month, with the entire Council convening two to four times per year. This revitalized Council structure creates a better pipeline to deliver recommendations directly to the Governor and has encouraged increased membership and participation from stakeholders.
The Council is committed to increasing the use of healthy and locally grown foods in school meals. With these priorities, the Council was critical during the establishment of the State’s 30 Percent New York State Initiative, which is intended to provide healthy New York sourced food products to children as part of their lunch meal in school. The initiative increases the reimbursement schools receive for lunches from 5.9 cents per meal to 25 cents per meal for any district that purchases at least 30 percent ingredients for their school lunch program from New York farms. Since the Department of Agriculture and Markets took over administration of the program as part of Governor Hochul’s 2022 State of the State commitment to better connect farms and schools across New York, the program has seen increased participation from school food authorities, with a total of 59 school food authorities approved for reimbursement during this school year, up from 51 approved for reimbursement last year.
The 30 Percent NYS Initiative builds on New York’s successful Farm-to-School program, which connects schools with local farms and food producers to strengthen local agriculture, improve student health, and promote regional food systems awareness. Through the program, the Department provides financial, technical, and promotional assistance to schools, farms, distributors, and other supporting organizations to bring more local, nutritious, seasonally-varied meals to New York students. The Farm-to-School program supports the Council’s priorities to initiate and facilitate public awareness campaigns about the economic benefits of a local farm and food economy; alleviate geographic and economic barriers to improve access to healthy fresh food; and promote well-balanced child nutrition.
Thanks to its focus on strengthening ties and cooperation between programs addressing hunger and those who produce and supply food, the Council’s work further aligns with and supports many additional State programs focused on alleviating food insecurity. This includes the Nourish New York program, which to date has helped food banks and other emergency food providers to purchase more than 90 million pounds of New York foods, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, vegetables, fruit, and more, from local farmers and delivered more than 75 million meals to communities across the state. It also includes the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, and the newly modified FreshConnect Fresh2You Initiative, which was announced by the Governor in spring 2023. The program partners with the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) and the Department of Veterans’ Services to double the buying power for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients and Veterans and their families at participating farmers' markets.
Also complimenting the work of the Council, investments in the 2023-2024 Enacted State Budget are aimed at boosting demand for New York agricultural products, bolstering New York's food supply chain, and ensuring all New Yorkers are able to produce and access fresh, local foods. This includes $2 million in funding for community garden programming to enhance access to fresh produce in underserved areas of the state, as well as a $10 million Food Access Expansion Grant program. The Department of Agriculture and Markets announced a Request for Interest earlier this month to help shape the program based on industry needs.
Additionally, many New York State agencies work with the federal and local governments across the state to address hunger and food insecurity. SNAP is a federally funded program overseen by OTDA and administered by local department of social services. In recent years, New York has expanded SNAP by eliminating unnecessary requirements and simplifying the application process, removing key barriers to reducing hunger for children and adults, while continuing efforts to maximize benefits for all New Yorkers who are eligible.
The State Department of Health (DOH) operates nutrition programs to reach underserved populations who often don't have equal access to abundant, affordable, healthy food options. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides a monthly prescription of nutritious foods tailored to supplement the dietary needs of more than 425,000 participants each month. Participants receive valuable nutrition counseling and education to increase their knowledge of healthy choices and use their eWIC card to shop for the nutritious food items at WIC approved vendors. In addition, the Child and Adult Care Food Program supports healthy meals and snacks served to over 300,000 children and adults in day care settings each day. These programs are essential to supporting nutrition security. Find more information about WIC.
The Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program, along with the Nourish New York Initiative, support the provision of more than 400 million emergency meals that are provided through a network of approximately 2,700 Emergency Food Relief Organizations. These meals include nutritious New York State grown produce and dairy products. Learn more about the DOH’s Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program.
New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball said, “We work hard year-round to raise awareness of food insecurity and renew our commitment to ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to nutritious, local food. The Council on Hunger and Food Policy has been instrumental in forging relationships that have been the foundation of several successful feeding programs and farm-to-school initiatives, and we are excited to have the group back together with new, focused priorities, under Governor Hochul’s direction. By formalizing the Council’s role in the State’s work to address hunger while supporting our farmers, we can further build on our work in this area and continue to strengthen the food system.”
New York State Department of Veterans’ Services Commissioner Viviana DeCohen said, "The Council on Hunger and Food Policy is a crucial coalition of stakeholders dedicated to addressing hunger and promoting local, nutritious food access. Its recent formalization into law has injected fresh momentum, leading to increased engagement from stakeholders. The Council's work with Nourish New York reflects our commitment to supporting local farms and ensuring food accessibility for all, including our Veterans and their families."
New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Acting Commissioner Barbara C. Guinn said, “Governor Hochul recognizes how important easy access to fresh, affordable, locally-grown foods is to the health and well-being of all New Yorkers. Our agency is committed to helping New Yorkers meet their essential needs and empowering them to improve their financial security and household stability – both key elements in building strong families and communities. The collaborations that will continue to be fostered by the recharged Council on Hunger and Food Policy will undoubtedly have a positive effect on struggling households, our local farms, and underserved communities across the state.”
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said, “It’s so important for people to have consistent access to good, healthy, and affordable food options, as nutrition is foundational to good overall health. As a pediatrician, I’ve seen firsthand how food and nutrition programs improve the lives and all-around health of people in need. I thank the Governor and Commissioner Ball for sharing in this commitment to invest in food access expansion and address hunger in New York State.”
State Senator Michelle Hinchey said, “Despite federal safety net programs, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are facing a hunger cliff, unable to afford enough nutritious food to feed their families and often confronted with the impossible choice of whether to allocate their money to food, housing, or utilities. In the face of these challenges, New York will continue to lead the fight against hunger. My priority, as Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is to ensure the food grown by our farmers reaches the families across our state grappling with food insecurity. I thank Governor Hochul for raising awareness of hunger and the important state programs that are actively working to strengthen food access and the coordination of food resources.”
Assemblymember Donna Lupardo said, “The Legislature with the support of Governor Hochul, established in law the NYS Council on Hunger and Food Policy to develop comprehensive and coordinated food policies for the state. With dedicated resources from the state budget, vitally important connections are being made between fresh and locally produced food, with those New Yorkers who are most in need. These innovative programs are needed now more than ever, as food insecurity has gripped all parts of our state. Our farmers stand ready to play a role in addressing hunger, while also benefiting from access to new markets for their products.”