New York State: Governor Cuomo Announces Next Step in $1.4 Billion Vital Brooklyn Initiative

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August 16th - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the next step in the $1.4 billion Vital Brooklyn Initiative to transform the Central Brooklyn region with a new model of community development and wellness to address chronic disparities, such as systemic violence, affordable housing, lack of access to open space and entrenched poverty in high-need communities.

In April, Governor Cuomo launched phase two of Vital Brooklyn and announced five RFPs to construct more than 2,000 affordable homes and advance the initiative's $563 million commitment to build 3,000 units of affordable housing in Central Brooklyn. Earlier this summer, Governor Cuomo announced a $3.1 million investment to renovate and transform eight community gardens and deliver a much-needed direct water connection to 14 others, to be completed by fall of 2019. Prior to that, the Governor also announced flagship ambulatory care sites and partnerships with six Brooklyn-based federally qualified health centers to form the foundation of its $210 million, 32-site ambulatory care network.

Today, as the next step of the comprehensive initiative, Governor Cuomo announced new actions to increase access to nutritious foods and address chronic food insecurity and health disparities in Central Brooklyn communities. By investing $1.825 million in new mobile markets, food insecurity screening for seniors, youth run farmers markets, community gardens, and a food distribution hub siting study, the State will ensure local communities have the ability to purchase fresh, local foods and the support they need for healthier lifestyles, double increase access to fresh fruit and vegetable services through the mobile markets and triple that increase in access next year with the RFP for a new food hub.

"One in four Central Brooklynites lack access to quality and varied food, almost twice the state average," Governor Cuomo said. "Through Vital Brooklyn, we are helping residents tap into new resources that will ensure high quality, healthy food for residents of Central Brooklyn. Together, we will continue to take aggressive action to reverse the chronic social, economic, and health disparities that this community has faced for far too long."

"The Vital Brooklyn initiative is helping to address the issues of disparity and violence in the area with investments in affordable housing, health care, and healthy foods," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who made today's announcement. "Access to fruits and vegetables is important to promote good nutrition and healthy lifestyles. This funding will provide mobile markets and transform community gardens to ensure food distribution in Central Brooklyn. We are working hard to turn around the economic, social, and health injustices residents in the area have faced and to enhance their overall quality of life."

Currently, eight of the 10 community districts that are facing the highest rates of food insecurity in Brooklyn and the fastest growing rates of food insecurity in the city are in Central Brooklyn. In addition, some analysis has shown that low income residents in Brooklyn may travel three times further to access groceries than higher income residents. This next step in the Vital Brooklyn initiative seeks to address these chronic disparities with targeted investments in mobile food access.

Five partner organizations have been awarded approximately $500,000 in funding through the Mobile Market Grant Program. Mobile food access units are an important means for reaching those who are often most in need of fresh, healthy food. They are more flexible and less expensive than constructing and operating full-scale grocery stores or new food pantries, and provide better access to people who have limited mobility.

Awards were provided to the following recipients who will expand or implement a new mobile market program to serve Central Brooklyn neighborhoods. These investments will double mobile markets available in Central Brooklyn, increasing the number of residents served to approximately 250,000.

City Harvest, $135,620 - Purchase of a new vehicle to expand the Community Partner Mobile Markets Program.

Serves communities in Fort Greene, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Crown Heights, Brownsville, Cypress Hills, East New York and Flatbush.

Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, $145,650 - Purchase, fully equip, and operate a new vehicle that will serve as both a traveling pantry and a mobile market.

Serves communities in Bed-Stuy, Bushwick, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Crown Heights, Ocean Hill, Brownsville, Cypress Hills, East New York, East Flatbush and Canarsie

Council on the Environment Inc., $43,212 - Purchase cargo vans to support and improve service at youth markets in Central Brooklyn.

Serves communities in Bed-Stuy, Bushwick, Brownsville, Cypress Hills and Flatbush.
United Community Centers, Inc., $50,000 - Operate an additional off-site Wednesday farmers' market and two farm stands at New York Community Housing Authority developments in East New York and Canarsie.

Serves communities in East New York, Canarsie, East Flatbush and Brownsville.
Food Bank for New York City, $122,689 - Expand the Food Bank's Green Sidewalk Program.
Serves communities in Bed-Stuy, Bushwick, Brownsville, Cypress Hills, Flatbush, East Flatbush and Canarsie.

A second round of the program will make an additional $500,000 available this fall, which is expected to triple the number of residents who will have access to fresh foods next year.

The Governor today also announced a partnership between New York State and SUNY Downstate, in coordination with One Brooklyn Health, that invests $300,000 to implement a new Food Insecurity Screening pilot program for seniors. As part of the program, older adults visiting a SUNY Downstate healthcare provider or health fair will participate in a screening to help determine if they are food insecure. Those who take part in the program will be provided with Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program benefits to use at participating farmers' markets and farm stands, and other resources to promote healthier eating habits and lifestyle changes. An additional $100,000 will expand the practice of screening for food insecurity within the healthcare system more broadly across Central Brooklyn.

In addition,$325,000 will support the launch of 12 new youth-run farmers' markets. Starting this school year, one dozen community schools in Central Brooklyn, working in partnership with Grow NYC and the United Federation of Teachers, will teach youth how to manage and operate farm stands, empowering high school students with entrepreneurship skills and encouraging them to take an active role in their local food systems. These new access points for fresh fruits and vegetables will also help make healthy food more available throughout the school year and at key times that are more convenient for families.

The Vital Brooklyn initiative also identified inadequate food supply chain infrastructure as one of the challenges residents face in accessing fresh food. To address this need in Central Brooklyn, the State has awarded $50,000 in funding to Bed Stuy Restoration Corporation to complete a comprehensive study on the feasibility of a food hub. The study will include a comprehensive stakeholder engagement process, research into food hub models and best practices, potential impacts on the community, and recommendations as to what form, function and location will best meet community needs. The food hub's infrastructure will also support improved aggregation and distribution opportunities to local farmers and agricultural producers.

To develop and enhance community gardens and urban farms in the Vital Brooklyn region, New York State has awarded two partner organizations $50,000 for critical improvement and expansion projects. These growing sites play a fundamental role in the fight against hunger while supporting proper nutrition, educational opportunities and community engagement. The awards are being provided to:

Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, Inc. (Kings County), $25,000 - This project will provide for the implementation and long-term operation of a new aquaponics greenhouse growing system at Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger's Saratoga Farm in Bedford Stuyvesant.
United Community Centers, Inc. (Kings County), $25,000 - This project will allow East New York Farms to provide more technical assistance to local gardeners in an effort to grow farmers' markets and improve access to healthy foods in an underserved area of Brooklyn.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "Healthy communities and a vibrant economy start with access to nutritious, farm-fresh foods. Thanks to the Governor's commitment to the Vital Brooklyn initiative, these new programs will make a significant, direct impact on our families and children, and provide the basis for other social and economic improvements."

Senator Jesse Hamilton said, "Governor Cuomo's transformative Vital Brooklyn initiative targets chronic health disparities in our communities with major investments to provide access to open space, healthy foods, housing and healthcare. These targeted investments to help neighborhoods across our community access fresh, healthy foods will improve the health and wellness of thousands of New Yorkers. I look forward to continued partnership with colleagues, our community based organizations, and neighborhood residents to deliver real results."

Senator Roxanne Persaud said, "Our eating habits set the tone for our entire day, with potential impacts on our work, school, and productivity. By providing greater access to healthy foods, we can not only help our community members get the nutrition they need to stay healthy, but we can also help them to stay on track as they go about their daily lives. I thank Governor Cuomo for ensuring that the people of Brooklyn are not forgotten and for funding critical initiatives that can help our neighbors thrive."

Assemblymember N. Nick Perry said, "The Vital Brooklyn initiative delivers the necessary funding and comprehensive approach needed to make a lasting impact for generations to come in Brooklyn. By providing mobile food access units, youth run farmer's markets, and a food insecurity screening pilot program, this initiative ensures that the next generation of Brooklynites has the necessary resources to achieve equal access to nutritious food and a healthier lifestyle. I would like to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and commitment to providing access to wholesome nutritious food, and to improving the quality of life and wellbeing of communities throughout Brooklyn."

Assemblywoman Maritza Davila said, “Food insecurity is a critical issue plaguing our community. I commend Governor Cuomo for his comprehensive approach to provide healthy foods to Brooklyn residents in need and for all of his work on the Vital Brooklyn initiative.”

Assemblymember Latrice Walker said, "Access to quality, nutritious meals is paramount to a successful, healthy lifestyle. For far too long, residents of Central Brooklyn have been neglected, with no healthy food options in site. Through this step in the incredible Vital Brooklyn initiative, Governor Cuomo is increasing the availability of healthy food options and truly transforming Central Brooklyn into a healthy, successful community where our residents can grow and thrive."

Assemblywoman Diana C. Richardson said, "Today marks another huge milestone in building a healthier Brooklyn. Every New Yorker deserves access to a wholesome, balanced diet and I am confident that the Vital Brooklyn initiative will open doors to the most disadvantaged residents and transform our community. I want to thank the Governor for addressing chronic food disparities and commitment to improving the lives of all residents in Brooklyn."

Assemblymember Tremaine Wright said, “The Vital Brooklyn initiative recognizes that our communities cannot thrive without addressing the chronic health disparities that have plagued them for far too long. These new investments will be critical tools to help communities access fresh, healthy food. Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for your leadership and commitment.”

Assemblymember Jaime R. Williams said, "A well-rounded, healthy meal is something that every New Yorker deserves and a zip code or neighborhood should not dictate one's access to fresh food. By proactively assessing the food security of Brooklynites and promoting community gardens that can bring fresh fruits and vegetables into the homes of countless residents, we can make a direct impact on the health of these New Yorkers. I applaud the Governor for his continued investment into the Vital Brooklyn imitative and for his ongoing support to make our borough stronger than ever."

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