Press Release

In Albany, Gillibrand Announces Legislation To End Food Deserts; Bill Would Provide $50 Million In Funding Annually To Incentivize Grocery Stores To Establish Locations In Underserved Communities 

Jan 22, 2024

Bill Could Help Bring A Grocery Store To Albany’s South End

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York to announce her Healthy Food Financing Initiative Reauthorization Act, legislation that would help end food deserts. Food deserts are areas where a significant portion of residents don’t have easy access to a grocery store and affordable, nutritious food. Instead, they are forced to rely on corner and convenience stores, which often sell little to no fresh produce, meat or dairy and whose prices are higher than those of a typical supermarket. 

Gillibrand’s legislation would 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 incentivize grocery stores to establish locations in underserved communities, such as Albany’s South End, which has not consistently had a single large grocery store since the 1990s. She is also calling for $25 million for HFFI to be included in the upcoming government funding bill. 

Gillibrand was joined by Congressman Paul Tonko, Tom Nardacci, CEO of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, City of Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Assemblymember Phil Steck, Assemblymember Pat Fahy, and Assemblymember John McDonald.  

An easily accessible grocery store is a basic necessity, but for decades, the residents of the South End haven’t had consistent access to one,said Senator Gillibrand. “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. USDA’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative is a critical public-private partnership that provides grocers with financial incentives to establish locations in these underserved communities, and for years, the program has successfully brought fresh food to areas that need it, including right here in the Capital Region. But HFFI doesn’t have enough funding to help every neighborhood in need, so I’m calling for $25 million for the program to be included in this year’s government funding bill. I’m also introducing a bill to provide $50 million in mandatory federal funding for HFFI every single year going forward. I look forward to getting it passed in this year’s Farm Bill and starting the process of ending food deserts for good.” 

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said, “Senator Gillibrand knows the importance of ensuring our residents have access to healthy foods. In cities like Albany, there are neighborhoods that do not have accessible healthy food options and that is why I’m so thankful our hometown Senator is fighting to both double the amount of federal funding dedicated toward eliminating food deserts and making this funding permanent.”

“No man, woman or child should ever go hungry and everyone should have access to nutritious food,” said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. “I commend Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Tonko who joined us today, to make the Healthy Foods Financing Initiative permanent to address food insecurity and help alleviate food deserts.”

“Hunger Solutions New York applauds Senator Gillibrand’s continued efforts to alleviate food insecurity and food deserts across the state. More than one in ten New Yorkers – including one in seven children – struggle with hunger. As we continue our work to maximize participation in SNAP, WIC, and other federal nutrition assistance programs, we know that access to grocers is a critical piece of the puzzle. Our partners at New York’s food banks have reported unprecedented demand in recent years as food costs have skyrocketed. Strengthening access to federally-funded nutrition programs – and the grocery stores and farmers’ markets where families can use their food benefits – can shorten the lines at food pantries and help ensure all New Yorkers can put food on the table,” said Andrés J. Vives, Executive Director of Hunger Solutions New York.

In New York State, HFFI has provided financial or technical assistance to 4 fresh food retailers in Troy, Rochester, Buffalo, and Brooklyn, as well as dozens more nationwide. A full list of recipients is available here.

The full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter to Senate appropriators calling for $25 million for HFFI in the upcoming government funding bill is available here.