Governor Kathy Hochul announced the Department of Agriculture and Markets has been awarded over $3.8 million from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to help New York seniors better access locally grown food. The funding comes from the American Rescue Plan Act and is part of the $50 million the FNS is awarding in grants to 47 states and tribes to modernize and expand the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program at farmers' markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture programs. It is one of many programs Governor Hochul is facilitating to source more locally grown and produced foods.
"One of our biggest strengths as a state is the wide scope of what we have to offer, and our farms' bounty is at the top of that list," Governor Hochul said. "With a fifth of our land used for farming for our 33,000 family farms, we're bringing more of New York's fresh produce and products not only to our seniors but also to schools and State agencies -- supporting our farms and promoting healthier lifestyles."
In addition to the expansion of the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program, Governor Hochul will be issuing an Executive Order later this year to direct New York State agencies to source 30 percent of their food from New York producers while also inviting local governments and school districts to strive to meet this goal. The Governor's proposed FY24 Executive Budget allocates $50 million to a grant program that will support scratch cooking facilities for schools using New York Farm products. The Budget also sets aside $10 million in funding for grants providing for expanded food access to farm markets, food co-ops, and other retail food stores in underserved communities, as well as over $2.2 million to expand urban agriculture infrastructure and community gardens across the state.
New York State Commissioner of Agriculture Richard A. Ball said, "There's no age limit on eating well. However, whether they are dealing with increasing mobility constraints or the loss of a steady income, many of our older residents find purchasing local, farm-fresh food more and more challenging. Programs like the Seniors Farmers' Market Nutrition Program are essential to ensuring some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers have access to fresh, healthy foods at affordable prices. This grant funding from USDA will help ensure even more seniors are able to take advantage of the program this year while supporting the hundreds of farmers that take part in the community markets."
New York State Office for the Aging Acting Director Greg Olsen said, "Access to nutritious food is vital for preventing disease, helping to manage a range of chronic conditions, and increasing energy to stay active. As the administrator of the largest senior nutrition program in the country, NYSOFA uses every tool available to increase access to healthy foods from New York, improving overall nutrition and health for older adults. The Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program allows thousands of older New Yorkers to access fresh products in their communities. NYSOFA thanks Governor Hochul and Commissioner Ball for their longstanding support and their leadership in expanding this popular and successful program."
The grant funding allocates $3,378,945 to help New York serve more fresh foods to eligible seniors. It also allocates $500,000 to implement other program improvements, such as online applications and training for farmers interested in participating, web-based farmers' markets and farm stand directories, and outreach to more eligible seniors through partnerships with community organizations.
USDA's Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program provides eligible seniors with access to fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and honey in 48 states, Puerto Rico, and eight tribal areas. These foods help support nutrition security, ensuring older Americans have consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, affordable foods essential to good health. Learn more about this program in New York State at https://agriculture.ny.gov/consumer-benefits-farmers-markets.
Farmers' markets fill an essential gap in New York's local food supply chains by improving access to and encouraging consumption of locally grown foods and supporting direct farmer-to-consumer transactions. Farmers' markets, farm stands, and mobile markets are crucial components of a healthy food system. Today, New York has more than 400 farmers' markets, 250 farm stands, and ten mobile markets. They provide outlets for agricultural producers to meet the rising consumer demand for a variety of fresh, affordable, and convenient products grown directly from the farm. New York State—through the Department of Agriculture and Markets, Department of Health, Office for the Aging, and Office of Temporary Disability Assistance—administers several programs that help low-income families, seniors, and Veterans access fresh, healthy food at participating markets.