North country leaders call for equity in Farm to Families program

North Country

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WFFF) — New York Assemblyman Billy Jones is calling on the USDA to be more equitable in its Farm to Families program after he says the north country was ultimately locked out of recent phases of the program.

“The northeast was kind of left behind in it, not kind of, we were left behind,” Jones said.

The program provides fresh food from local farm producers to families in need. During initial phases, from May to August, the distributor in Malone, New York provided 22,000 gallons of milk and more than 70,000 meal boxes across Clinton and Franklin counties. Local leaders say being short-changed the past few months has impacted residents’ access to healthy food.

“This particular program allows people who wouldn’t purchase it otherwise for lots of reasons, they’re worried about making rent, keeping the car on the road,” said John Bernardi of the United Way. “Fresh food is not likely to make it into their cart because there are so many other needs.”

Officials say stay-at-home orders only escalated the need for food within the community.

“We have these vulnerable populations that we told to stay home and not leave,” said Mark Hamilton with the Plattsburgh Housing Authority. “Therefore they can’t go get food, they cant get groceries.”

As phase 4 is set to roll out the third week of December, Jones says they’ve proved the need and want to see the region included so North Country families will be fed.

“That our local producers get the chance to feed families and our food banks get an equitable share.”

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