The line of cows dipped their heads Wednesday and began chewing on feed as farmer Paul Fouts of Fouts Farm in Groton pushed the food closer to their stalls.
Fouts was happy to hear that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed expanding the Nourish New York program, funding it with another $25 million. Last year, the program allocated $25 million to buy food that was grown, raised or processed in the state to counter the effects the coronavirus-fueled recession had on hunger among New York families.
“It was a win-win,” Fouts said.
“As of Dec. 1, 2020, Nourish NY has resulted in $26.4 million in purchases for 17 million pounds of food. More than one million households have received New York State products through food distributions and more than 4,000 farms have benefitted from the initiative,” the governor said in a recent statement.
Farms like Fouts’, on Route 222 in Groton.
Fouts sells his milk to the Dairy Farmers of America and Chobani. Both of those organizations participate in Nourish New York.
Fouts said the program works because “that was another route that gave us a market for our milk” and enabled them to give back to the community.
However, Fouts said the farm isn’t told whether its milk, specifically, is what Nourish-NY is buying. But it’s better than tossing milk, which happened in April for some farmers because their cooperatives had no market for all the milk being produced after buyers like schools and restaurants were closed.
The program comes as the state has seen an increase in families and individuals seeking food from food banks during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Food Bank of Central New York saw a 186% increase from March 1 to Sept. 30, 2020, compared to 2019’s numbers. Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, it had seen a 70% increase compared to 2019.
The Southern Tier Food bank saw a 26% increase in household food requests compared to 2019, according to a news release from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.
“Through the Nourish New York program, the Food Bank of the Southern Tier has purchased $1,295,079 worth of New York State products, including more than 650,000 pounds of dairy products, 100,000 pounds of eggs, 99,000 pounds of produce, 8,500 pounds of juice, and 8,000 pounds of meat,” the release states.