Press Release

In Buffalo, 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 26, 2024

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited the Delavan Grider Community Center in Buffalo 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 areas like East Buffalo, where nearly two years after the Tops shooting, the Tops market on Jefferson Avenue is still one of the only supermarkets serving Masten Park and the surrounding areas. She is also calling for $25 million for HFFI to be included in the upcoming government funding bill. 

Gillibrand was joined by NAACP Buffalo President Rev. Mark Blue, President and CEO of FeedMore WNY Tara A. Ellis, Buffalo Common Council Member Zeneta Everhart, and Erie County Legislator Howard Johnson.

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

“Access to a grocery store that provides nutritious and affordable food is a basic right. Almost two years ago, the only grocery store in East Buffalo was the scene of a racially motivated attack leaving an already underserved community with nowhere to go,” said County Legislator Howard Johnson. “I want to thank Senator Gillibrand for recognizing this is a community in crisis when it comes to food security and for taking the necessary steps to alleviate food insecurity.”

“The horrific mass shooting in Buffalo on May 14, 2022 cast a national spotlight on the prevalence of food deserts in the Western New York community and highlighted the need for nutritious food for all. However, the reality is that food insecurity is not a new problem – but it is a growing problem. In 2022, FeedMore WNY assisted 197,500 individuals throughout our four-county service area, which is more people than who we served in the height of the pandemic. FeedMore WNY and our network of hunger-relief agencies are proud of the work we do to alleviate food insecurity, but we cannot do it alone. We appreciate Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s continued commitment to tackling root causes of food insecurity and we support her efforts to strengthen the Farm Bill through the Healthy Food Financing Initiative,” said Tara A. Ellis, President and CEO of FeedMore WNY.

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