Every fall, bright red apples come farm fresh to the Food Bank in giant totes from our local farm partners, like Stoney Ridge Orchard and Winery in Erin. Clients take away huge bags of the crisp fruit from our Mobile Food Pantries and agency partners, excited about the prospect of cobblers, pies, and sliced up treats.
More local produce and agricultural products are on the way, thanks to Nourish New York, a state agriculture program developed last year during the pandemic that helps our neighbors in need, as well as New York food producers. In 2020, the Food Bank received nearly $1.1 million for direct purchase of agricultural products from New York farmers, growers, and other food producers for distribution throughout our six-county service area. In June this year, the state legislature passed a bill to make Nourish New York a permanent program.
That’s “lifesaving” news for growers like Stoney Ridge, said manager Liz Heppner. Pandemic restrictions last year and land issues this year shut down the you-pick experience that has sustained Stoney Ridge for 10 years. This season, the orchard sent every apple harvested — 9-12,000 lbs. each week — to the Food Bank.
“That’s the only income we have this year. It’s going to be a huge help. It will get us through this year,” Liz said.
Demonstrating the power of legislation to combat hunger, 21 million pounds of surplus agricultural products have been purchased from more than 4,000 state farms and delivered to more than 1.3 million residents in need since the program began in April 2020.
“It’s the best thing that could have happened to us this year,” Liz said. “People might not realize that programs like this can save farmers.”