ALBANY — FeedMore WNY, the hunger relief organization serving Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, and Niagara counties in Western New York, partnered with the non-profit veterans’ service organization WNY Heroes, Inc. to distribute food purchased through the Nourish NY program to more than 800 veterans Tuesday, December 29 at the WNY Heroes office at 8205 Main St., Williamsville. Boxes supplied at the drive-through distribution included potatoes, onions, cabbage, apples, acorns, butter, Greek yogurt, white and chocolate milk, cheddar cheese, applesauce, flour, pita chips, black beans, and granola snacks. All products were purchased from New York growers and producers.
Through Nourish NY, FeedMore WNY has provided 1,217,383 pounds of food to people, including 323,385 pounds of dairy products and 450,423 pounds of produce. The agency’s purchases of New York agricultural products stand at $2,086,795 to date. In addition, FeedMore WNY implemented a voucher program in partnership with Upstate Niagara Cooperative that has provided people the opportunity to receive half gallons of milk at cooperating retail outlets.
NYS Commissioner of Agriculture Richard A. Ball said, “New Yorkers continue to need food and farmers and producers continue to need markets for their products as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. We are proud that the Nourish NY program has been able to help New Yorkers in need, including our veterans, while supporting our agricultural producers. I applaud our food bank partners, such as FeedMore WNY, for their non-stop efforts during this challenging time.”
New York State Division of Veterans’ Services Executive Deputy Director Joel Evans said, “During COVID-19, Veterans across New York State have stood up to help their fellow Veterans in so many areas of need. Food insecurity, which Veterans confront at twice the rate of their civilian counterparts, is one of those critical areas. Through Nourish NY, and with the collaboration of Western NY Heroes and their devoted volunteers, Veterans and military families have received weekly distributions of nutritious food since the summer. At a time when the need was greatest, we all banded together to devote time and money to making certain that the people who served this country could put healthy food on the table for themselves and their families.”
Tara A. Ellis, President and CEO of FeedMore WNY, said, “FeedMore WNY has distributed nearly 17 million pounds of food to the Western New York region since the pandemic began. The resources that we have received through this partnership with New York State and the Nourish NY program have helped us meet this increased need. Because of the support we have received through this critical program, we have been able to provide a variety of nutritious food to hungry children, families, older adults and veterans throughout Western New York,”
Christopher Krieger, Founder, President and CEO of WNY Heroes, Inc., said, “The need among veterans is higher than ever. Veterans who were helping other vets last year now need help themselves. Because of COVID, some have lost their jobs and others have had serious health problems. At the same time, those veterans who needed assistance in the past now need more.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, New York State has stepped up in many ways to support food insecure veterans. Building on the State’s outreach to veterans during Round 1 of Nourish NY, the Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Division of Veterans’ Services are working to expand their work to all regions of the state. In addition to helping to connect the Western NY Heroes organization and FeedMore WNY in Buffalo, staff members have worked hard over the past several months to identify local partners who can coordinate and distribute food to New York’s veteran communities, helping hundreds of thousands of meals to be distributed to veterans across New York State in Buffalo, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.
So far, the Western NY Heroes organization and FeedMore WNY have partnered together to provide tens of thousands of Nourish NY food boxes and USDA food boxes to veterans in the area. Tuesday’s distribution involves veterans from 10 organizations.
Since the beginning of the Nourish NY program in May, FeedMore WNY has held 382 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.
Governor Cuomo’s Nourish NY program has provided $35 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 families in need at drive-through food distributions, and through food box and school meal programs. To date, Nourish NY has provided funding to New York’s food banks to purchase more than 18.7 million pounds of surplus products.
The Nourish NY program is administered by the State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York State Department of Health. Round 2 of the Nourish NY program will continue through December 31, 2020. 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 COVIDPhilanthropies@exec.ny.gov.
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.
–New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets
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