Press Release

In Binghamton, 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

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited Greater Good Grocery in Binghamton 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. She is also calling for $25 million for HFFI to be included in the upcoming government funding bill. 

Gillibrand was joined by Mayor Jared Kraham, Broome County Executive Jason Garnar, General Manager of Greater Good Grocery and Binghamton City Councilor Kinya Middleton, Director of the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) Les Aylesworth, and Rev. Dr. Joe Sellepack, Executive Director of the Broome County Council of Churches.

An easily accessible grocery store is a basic necessity, but for years, some residents of Broome County 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. 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.” 

“Thank you, Senator Gillibrand, for advocating for much needed funding to make sure underserved communities have access to affordable and nutritious food. One food desert is too many, and unfortunately many food deserts still exist across our country and even right here in New York State. I encourage our leaders in Washington to support Senator Gillibrand’s funding request that will help end food deserts and provide easy access to healthy food for all Americans,” said County Executive Jason Garnar.

“Thank you so much Senator Gillibrand for coming we are grateful to have shared values when it comes to expanding access to food. We look forward to working with your office to support our community and provide to access to health food in our state,” said City Councilor Kinya Middleton, General Manager at Greater Good Grocery.

“The NY Department of Health recently suggested that upwards of 25% of New Yorkers are food insecure.  This is unacceptable and is why CHOW exists!  We provide food at no cost to over 100 emergency food programs to help folks who don’t necessarily know there their next meal may be coming.  That is also why we are proud to work with the Greater Good Grocery, so that those who need to stretch their food budgets can,” said Les Aylesworth, Director of CHOW.

“Thank you to Senator Gillibrand for addressing food security, an issue that impacts many working families here in the Southern Tier,” said New York State Senator Lea Webb. “Ensuring that my constituents have access to healthy, nutritious food is one of my top priorities. Our region has some of the highest poverty rates in the state and my constituents face barriers to accessing healthy food for their families. I am committed to teaming up with Senator Gillibrand and community partners like the Greater Good Grocery to support the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) to make sure that underserved areas can access healthy, fresh foods.”

“Food insecurity is a reality in the City of Binghamton and in areas across the state. Fortunately, places like the Greater Good Grocery are beacons of hope in historically underserved areas, providing access to healthy food. I’d like to thank Senator Gillibrand for shining a light on this subject by continuing to push for an expansion of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative.  I hope the majority of her colleagues in Washington will support her efforts to have this included in the Farm Bill Reauthorization,” said Assembly member Donna Lupardo

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.