Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced legislation Friday to improve the availability of food in areas where access to grocery stores or supplies is limited.
Speaking at Island Harvest in Melville, the Democratic senator said that her Healthy Food Financing Initiative Reauthorization Act, provide $50 million annually in mandatory federal funding for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI). HFFI is a USDA program that offers loans and grants to encourage grocery stores to establish locations in underserved communities.
She wants $25 million for HFFI to be included in the next government funding bill.
Food deserts are areas where a significant portion of residents don’t have easy access to a grocery store and affordable, nutritious food. Many in those neighborhoods have to rely on convenience stores, which often sell little to no fresh produce, meat or dairy and whose prices are higher than those of a typical supermarket.
President and CEO of Island Harvest Randi Shubin Dresner and Suffolk County Legislature Minority Leader Jason Richberg joined her.
“An easily accessible grocery store is a basic necessity, but for years, some residents of Suffolk County haven’t had consistent access to one,” Gillibrand said. “That means that they have to travel miles outside their neighborhood just to buy staple groceries, and for residents without a car, that can mean a multi-hour journey by foot or public transit. It’s unacceptable.”
“Having consistent access to a variety of fresh food at affordable prices is essential to reducing the number of people who are presently food insecure while helping to lessen the incidents of certain chronic health conditions that result from poor diets and limited access to healthy food,” Dresner said. “We support Senator Gillibrand’s call for increased funding for the USDA’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative and applaud her tireless efforts in addressing the continuing public health crisis of hunger and food insecurity in America.”
“In recent years, ‘food deserts’ have become a growing issue on Long Island and throughout the state,” Richberg said. “Full-scale supermarkets are scarce in some parts of my district, so I know first-hand that access to fresh food is essential to the overall health and well-being of a community.”
The full text of Gillibrand’s letter to Senate appropriators calling for $25 million for HFFI in the upcoming government funding bill is available here.
Minority Leader Jason Richberg