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Gillibrand-sponsored legislation would bring more resources to grocery stores in ‘food deserts’

Senator Gillibrand speaking at Greater Good Grocery
Aurora Berry
Senator Gillibrand speaking at Greater Good Grocery.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) traveled to Binghamton Monday to announce legislation that would increase federal funding for grocery stores in food deserts.

Gillibrand spoke at Greater Good Grocery, a nonprofit grocery store that brings healthy and affordable food to the area. Greater Good was established in the North Side of Binghamton in a food desert, an area where healthy and affordable food is unavailable.

Senator Gillibrand hopes her proposal for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative Reauthorization Act will provide more resources to grocery stores like Greater Good.

“I'm very hopeful that this change will really help Binghamton families get the food they need, address food deserts and get more resources into the communities where it's needed most,” she said.

Grocery stores like Greater Good that operate in food deserts can currently apply for grants and loans through the Healthy Food Financing Initiative. The program is funded through the Farm Bill, which is being renegotiated this year.

Gillibrand is asking for the initiative to be fully funded, meaning it would get $25 million.

“It's very effective. It's very popular,” she said. “And, unfortunately, it's always underfunded and oversubscribed.”

Gillibrand’s new legislation would make the program mandatory and provide $50 million in federal funding each year.

Food deserts damage American communities, Gillibrand said.

“When a community has access to safe, nutritious, healthy meals, it enriches them and it makes the community stronger,” she said. “But when you look at many communities across the country, people don't always have the food they need to be healthy.”

Food accessibility is more important than ever, Broome County Executive Jason Garnar said.

“After COVID, we saw a huge increase in the need for food,” he said. “And especially in neighborhoods where it's very difficult to access food.”

Residents in the area didn’t have easy access to a grocery store where they could buy nutritious foods.

“I will tell you that before the Greater Good Grocery, people were basically buying chips and things like that really unhealthy food because they just didn't have a place where they could buy fresh groceries,” Garnar said.

An increase in federal funding would help grocery stores like Greater Good, he said.

Greater Good Grocery’s general manager and Binghamton city councilor, Kinya Middleton, thanked Senator Gillibrand for her work with food deserts.

“We know that the world is changing and things are becoming hard, but it's good to have great leaders and great partners to help us with this issue,” she said.

Gillibrand sent a letter to Senate appropriators to fulfill this year’s funding for the program.