UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR) — At the beginning of the month, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a new statewide initiative that puts aside up to $25 million in grants for restaurants that are willing to provide meals for underserved communities.

“It’s really timing is perfect when you think of restaurants and what they’ve faced from the pandemic,” said Karen Belcher, the executive director at the Food Bank of Central New York. “They’ve lost a lot of business. This is a way to help generate extra income for them, but it’s also helping those in need in the community. So it’s a win-win for both parties.”

Multiple agencies across the state were hit hard by the pandemic, like restaurants, farmers, and food donation and distribution systems. That’s why Belcher believes this program came at the right time.

Restaurants that are a part of the program will have to make meals that follow federal nutritional standards, these restaurants will work directly with food banks, and will transfer the meals to families in need. It’s a program similar to other state initiatives like Nourish New York.

“Once the partnership is created between the restaurant and the member program of the food bank they will create a meal based on MyPlate,” Belcher explained. “It has to have those federal nutritional standards in place, and they will prepare and deliver those meals directly to the partner agency that the food bank and the restaurant partner with.”

The Food Bank of Central New York received a little more than $2.2 million for this program, but as of this past weekend, no restaurants had reportedly applied. Belcher and her team hope restaurants will take advantage of these grants, noting that applications are open until March.