NEW YORK, N.Y. — Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson held a press conference at the Hunts Point Produce Market to call for $50 million in federal funding to help end food deserts and food insecurity. Gillibrand and Gibson were joined by Founder and President of the Bodega and Small Business Association of NY Francisco Marte, CEO of Hunts Point Produce Market Phillip Grant, and Montefiore Health System Director of Health Equity Programs Elizabeth Spurrell-Huss.
Many residents in Hunts Point are more than half a mile away from the nearest grocery store, making it difficult to access nutritious and affordable meals. Robust and continued funding of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) would help fight food insecurity in the Bronx and beyond by providing loans and grant financing to attract grocery stores and other fresh food retailers to underserved urban, suburban, and rural areas.
Gillibrand is fighting to include the Healthy Food Financing Initiative Reauthorization Act in the 2023 Farm Bill to make HFFI funding mandatory, as it is currently discretionary. Additionally, the bill would boost annual funding from $25 million to $50 million by 2028.
“No one should face hunger in the richest country in the world, but food deserts are all too common in the United States and disproportionately impact communities of color,” said Senator Gillibrand. “About one in four Bronx residents face food insecurity and a significant number of residents in Hunts Point are more than half a mile away from the nearest grocery store. It’s unacceptable. I’m fighting to include the Healthy Food Financing Initiative Reauthorization Act in the 2023 Farm Bill to boost annual funding to $50 million, make robust federal funding mandatory for years to come and to keep our communities fed.”
“Thank you to Senator Gillibrand for keeping a light shined on food insecurity in our city,” said U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens). “I have worked to combat this problem and I again renew my call for doing all we can to address it, especially in underserved areas to ensure access to affordable, healthy food options for all. No family in New York, or anywhere in our country, should go hungry and not be able to put food on the table.”
“Right now, there are far too many people in communities like mine who go to bed hungry and have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from,” said U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx). “Food insecurity doesn’t just prevent people from living active, healthy lives. It’s also a significant barrier that forces people to make impossible choices between groceries, rent, bills, medicine, and transportation. We must provide a stable and permanent funding source to the Healthy Food Financing Initiative so we can increase access to affordable, healthy food options in underserved areas, begin to eliminate food deserts, and address some of the root causes of food insecurity.”
“Providing our communities with access to healthy, nutritious food is a top priority for our administration and it is imperative that we have partners on the state and federal levels who share the same vision and who are also committed to combatting these food inequities in our borough,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “The passage of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) Reauthorization Act could serve as a game changer by expanding the presence of grocery stores and healthy food options in historically underserved neighborhoods. I want to thank Senator Gillibrand, the Hunts Point Produce Market, the Bodega and Small Business Association of New York, Montefiore Medical Center, and health justice advocates for their collective work to prioritize the availability of healthy food and commitment to eliminating food deserts.”
“We are thrilled to support this transformative initiative that will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the underserved communities, particularly in the Bronx, where preventable diseases such as obesity and high blood pressure are unfortunately prevalent,” said Francisco Marte, the founder and president of the Bodega and Small Business Association of New York. “As an organization dedicated to the betterment of small businesses and their communities, we recognize the immense value of expanding and permanently funding the Healthy Food Financing Initiative program and are proud to stand behind it. We commend Senator Gillibrand for her efforts and look forward to the positive outcomes a fully funded Healthy Food Financing Initiative will undoubtedly achieve for underserved residents in the Bronx and across the nation who live in food deserts.”
“It is a scary reality that in NYC we are still battling food insecurity for so many of our citizens,” said State Senator Nathalia Fernandez. “The Bronx in particular struggles with multiple food deserts where healthy food options are not readily available. That is why it is so critical to team up with partners like Senator Gillibrand and Hunts Point Produce Market to support the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) Reauthorization Act which will create healthy, affordable food options for the people and neighborhoods in the Bronx that need it most.”
Food deserts are geographic areas where residents have few to no convenient options for securing affordable and healthy foods — especially fresh fruits and vegetables. Disproportionately found in high-poverty areas, food deserts create extra hurdles that can make it harder for kids, families, and communities to grow healthy and strong. HFFI provides loan and grant financing to attract grocery stores and other fresh food retailers to underserved areas and to renovate and expands existing stores so they can provide the healthy foods communities want and need.
Senator Gillibrand leads the Healthy Food Financing Initiative Reauthorization Act with Senator Casey (D-PA). This bill would:
1. Reauthorize a critical public-private partnership that combats America’s obesity epidemic by providing access to affordable, healthy, and fresh food options.
2. Make HFFI funding mandatory, as it is currently discretionary through the appropriations process and is authorized at $25 million. The goal is to provide $50 million annually of mandatory funding to fight food insecurity and food deserts by FY2028.