Many saw the milk being dumped out on their television screens while watching the news. Vital nutrients being wasted before their eyes. The problem was the supply of milk was rising rapidly, but people weren't buying as much of it. All over New York, as the pandemic leveled folks' grocery shopping lists to bare necessities, farms were also feeling the crisis.
Out of those images, the Nourish New York program was created. In total, the Nourish New York program has allocated $25 million to food banks across the state.
'The initiative, essentially, was something that was created by the governor, because of the loss of markets due to the culture of the restaurants and businesses that farmers were so used to relying on to get food to New Yorkers especially downstate. What happened was there was a huge disconnect, a back up essentially, with the amount of goods that were available and the lack of markets for them," King said. "Upon hearing this he basically said that he was going to supplement that with Nourish New York."
King said, the state was providing funds to agricultural producers, farms and companies, which had excess amounts of a variety of crops – dairy products, potatoes, cabbage and apples to name a few – through food distributors and food banks that can purchase the overflow and send it to where it's most needed.
Eva Balazs, marketing director for Upstate Niagara Cooperative, said from her side of the equation, the program is working.
"We're distributing milk to the Southern Tier Food Bank, as well as, Food Link locations in Rochester," she said, and noted the food banks have received their allocation of funds and can use it anywhere they want. "WNY FeedMore also reached out for yogurt, but nothing is committed yet."
King said, with difficulties in making ends meet, perhaps because of a job loss during the COVID-19 pandemic, the intention of the program is not only to help farmers, but to feed hungry families.
"It's being purchased and being provided to those who are in need and providing some relief for people, because they don't have jobs and they lack income, so a lot of it is going to the food banks across the state," King said. "There's been such a reliance on food banks, because they don't have any income, they can't go to the store. This is one way the state is helping."
Niagara Upstate Cooperative has also donated roughly 7,000 pounds of dairy product to the downstate area, said King.
"As far as the supply chain and alleviating us from dumping milk, it's certainly helped our farms, though the price of milk is still down," King said. "But they are seeing movement of the product, which is what they need, because what you saw was many of the excess was just being dumped and the growers weren't making money."