Sen. George Borrello backs Nourish NY restoration
It didn’t take long for New York’s bureaucracy to wreak havoc with the Nourish New York program.
The Nourish New York initiative was created in April 2020 at the height of COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and layoffs to address two separate yet connected issues: the millions of New Yorkers turning to food banks for assistance and the supply chain disruptions that left thousands of New York farmers struggling to sell their products as their main customers — schools and hospitality businesses — closed their doors. Through Nourish New York, food banks and other emergency food providers can receive state funding to purchase agricultural products directly from New York farmers, including fresh produce, meat, and dairy, which are then distributed to families and individuals in need.
Nourish New York was approved during the 2021 legislative session and signed into law that November and given a $50 million appropriation in the state budget. Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, was a co-sponsor of the original Nourish New York legislation and a vocal supporter of the bill. Borrello hadn’t been added as a co-sponsor of the new Nourish New York legislation when contacted by The Post-Journal on Monday but had added himself as a co-sponsor by Tuesday.
In less than two years, however, the program has evolved to the point that new legislation (A.7678/S.7533) has been proposed this week by original sponsors Sen. Michelle Hinchey, D-Kingston, and Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, D-Corona, to undo changes made by state officials and restore Nourish New York to a stand-alone program.
In each of the seven rounds of funding distributed since the Nourish New York program’s inception, funding was allocated to the state’s 10 regional food banks. Those food banks then work with food relief organizations within their jurisdictions to purchase food from farmers with Nourish New York money.
“Nourish NY is one of those rare policy initiatives that was a ‘win’ for everyone,” Borrello said in response to a Post-Journal inquiry. “We cannot let a botched administrative action undermine its ability to help food insecure New Yorkers and our farmers. That is why I am co-sponsoring Senate Bill 7533, which would fix this error by clarifying that all Nourish NY funds are to be allocated to regional food banks, as originally intended. I urge my colleagues to vote in support of this critically needed legislation before we adjourn.”
Hinchey and Cruz wrote in her legislative justification that in September 2022, the state Health Department added the $50 million of funding from the Nourish New York program into the smaller, $36.6 million Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program in the most recent request for application.
“This change was made without any warning, transparency, or justification,” Hinchey wrote. “This process was flawed in that the programs each have a separate intent, each has a stand-alone appropriation, and each has different programmatic parameters; and the application for and methodology used to determine awards for the Nourish NY program appears to be flawed.”
The 38-page application, Hinchey and Cruz say, was clearly designed for the HPNAP program with Nourish New York tacked on as an afterthought. The request for applications provides little information about the Nourish NY program and Hinchey and Cruz said the new application doesn’t collect sufficient information to evaluate applicants for Nourish NY Funding. A month after the request for applications was first amended, an addendum was issued for Nourish New York that only required applicants to check a box to indicate interest in Nourish New York and to attest the applicant can comply with its requirements. Those applying for money were todl they could get a set proportion of their HPNAP allocation from Nourish New York money based on a Health Department formula that had yet t obe determined.
“However, it now appears that some organizations who received no HPNAP allocation have been awarded Nourish NY funding,” Cruz and Hinchey wrote. “As a result, despite the 2024 state budget allocating more than $58.6 million for HPNAP and $50 million for Nourish NY, this flawed process resulted in severe funding cuts to some regional food banks and other food relief organizations. As such, this bill seeks to clarify that monies appropriated for the Nourish NY program must be allocated to the 10 regional food banks, as they have been since the inception of the program. It also clarifies that regional food banks may continue to suballocate funding to food relief organizations.”