The “Nourish New York” bill passed both the state Senate and Assembly with unanimous bipartisan support this week.

This program helps connect upstate farmers with downstate food banks.

“When's the last time we could say a bill passed both houses unanimously?” said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Michelle Hinchey. “This is a bill and an issue that really fundamentally shows how much better we are as a state when we all work together, both through bipartisanship, regardless of party, as well as geographically.”

When schools and restaurants had to shut their doors during March of last year, the demand for milk plummeted. With nowhere to go with their products, many farmers were forced to dump hundreds of thousands of gallons of milk.

At the same time, thousands of New Yorkers lined up at food banks, many for the first time, leaving empty shelves and concerns over a possible food shortage.  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched the Nourish New York initiative at the end of April last year, which helped food banks purchase excess food from farmers.

The legislature just recently allocated more money for the program in the state budget this year, but by making this program permanent, lawmakers will not have to do this each year.

“Everyone, no matter who you are and where you live, deserves to eat fresh, healthy, locally sourced food,” Sen. Hinchey said. “And this bill makes this program that was created and born out of the darkest times of the COVID-19 pandemic — this bill makes that a permanent program across the state.”

This bill also opens up a whole new market for farmers as well, allowing them to sell more than just their surplus goods.

“Everything from family-owned farms and family-owned processing facilities that only have a couple of employees that may only really supply food to their local community and now this will help really supplement that, as well as maybe expand their markets just little bit further,” said Alex Walsh, associate vice president of the Northeast Dairy Foods Association.

According to the New York Farm Bureau, at least 65 percent of the state’s farms were negatively impacted by the pandemic.