Legislation (S.64/A.1524) Creates Statewide Restaurant Meals Program; Mandates OTDA to Apply for USDA Approval so SNAP Recipients Can Purchase Prepared Foods

Once Approved by USDA, Would Help SNAP Recipients to Use Their Benefits for Prepared or Hot Food at Participating Restaurants and Delis

Launches $25 Million Restaurant Resiliency Program, Building on the Successful Nourish New York Initiative, to Provide a Boost to Struggling Restaurants While Feeding Families in Need

Restaurants Can Apply Here for the Resiliency Program

Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation (S.64/A.1524) establishing a statewide Restaurant Meals Program as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The legislation mandates the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to apply for USDA approval to authorize the program, which would allow homeless, elderly and disabled SNAP recipients to use their benefits for prepared or hot food from participating restaurants. Governor Hochul signed this legislation at the Brownsville Recreation Center in Brooklyn, NY on October 4.  

The Governor also announced the launch of the $25 million Restaurant Resiliency Program to provide relief to the restaurant industry, which continues to face severe challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The program, proposed by the legislature, will build on the successful Nourish New York initiative. It will provide funding to New York’s network of food banks and emergency food providers to purchase prepared meals from New York restaurants and deliver them to families in need. 

“It’s unconscionable that in a state as prosperous as New York, many residents still struggle to get enough food to feed their families,” Governor Hochul said. “The vital actions we’re taking—establishing two restaurant programs to help the most vulnerable New Yorkers feed themselves and help restaurants recover from this terrible pandemic—will work in tandem to put food on the table in homes across the state. This pandemic continues to impact the wallets and homes of a vast number of New Yorkers, and we’re taking any and all actions to help them support themselves and their loved ones.”

Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin said, “The actions Governor Hochul are taking today make it clear to families and restaurants recovering from COVID that New York State is here for them. Expanding SNAP benefit eligibility to prepared or hot foods at participating restaurants will help feed New York families in need while providing a needed boost to struggling local businesses. Along with the $25 million Restaurant Resiliency program being launched, which I advocated for in the Senate, this will go a long way to furthering our recovery toward a more equitable New York.”

The statewide Restaurant Meals Program, once approved by USDA, would allow SNAP recipients to use their benefits for prepared or hot food from participating restaurants and delis at reduced prices.

Prior to the signing of this legislation, SNAP recipients in New York State could not use their benefits to purchase prepared goods. This prevented many populations that do not have access to cooking or food preparation on their own from using SNAP benefits. This primarily affects the homeless, disabled and elderly populations.

“It’s unconscionable that in a state as prosperous as New York, many residents still struggle to get enough food to feed their families.”

Governor Kathy Hochul

Senator Roxanne Persaud, Chair of the Senate Social Services Committee, said, “The legislation being signed today will ultimately result in more hot meal options for elderly, disabled or homeless New Yorkers who either lack basic cooking facilities or are physically unable to prepare food. Food insecurity does not discriminate, and all options must be available for our most vulnerable neighbors. I thank Governor Hochul for signing this important legislation and also for deploying the $25 million Restaurant Resiliency Program funded in this year’s budget.  COVID-19 imperiled food service establishments across New York State; this program will help restaurants help our neighbors facing hunger.”

Assemblymember Karines Reyes said, “The pandemic has significantly increased food insecurity in our state. This threat of food insecurity is something that I have seen in my district and it is even greater for our elderly, disabled and homeless populations. That is why I introduced and worked to pass this bill in the Assembly, so that New York could join the Restaurant Meals Program. It ensures that the most vulnerable recipients of SNAP are accommodated for and can receive prepared or hot food from participating restaurants — all while offering a helping hand to restaurants that are still recovering.”

Assemblymember Robert J. Rodriguez said, “The pandemic shocked the New York State restaurant industry by placing an unprecedented strain on its revenue, as marginalized communities across the state are struggling with food insecurity. In the face of great adversity, restaurant owners created ingenious ways to serve their customers, protect their staff, and feed those in need in their communities.  These efforts have not gone unnoticed, and the Restaurant Revitalization program will give them the resources to continue this work. I am grateful that the State has widened its safety net and ushered in a program that will help restaurants sustain their businesses while meeting the needs of the communities fighting food insecurity and provide meals to the neediest of our neighbors.”

The Restaurant Resiliency Program will award funding, which was passed as part of the 2021-22 New York State Budget, from the New York State Department of Health to New York’s network of ten food banks across the State.  The list of food banks and their award amounts can be found here.

Emergency food providers will work directly with restaurants who are deemed eligible for the program by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. They will need to show capacity to create meals aligning with MyPlate.gov standards, be up to date with licensing requirements, and have passed all health inspections. Participating restaurants are encouraged to use New York ingredients where possible. Additional information and an application for the program can be found here.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The Nourish New York program has been a resounding success in its ability to address the needs of families who have found themselves in need of food assistance during the pandemic and to provide relief to our farmers who are struggling with the loss of key markets.  By using the Nourish New York as a model to now help our restaurants, we will be able to reach even more New Yorkers and provide a steady customer base for our restaurants to help them get through these continued challenging times.”

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Food insecurity is a public health issue that has been particularly highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nourish New York program has been crucial in providing assistance and relief throughout the pandemic and is continuing their great work to not only help families but revive the restaurant industry. I am proud of the dedication to fighting back against food insecurity and helping ensure that New York’s families are healthier and stronger than before.”

Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks said, “At NYC DSS, we have implemented a range of reforms that have made it easier for New Yorkers to access the resources and benefits they need, when they need them, including via online/mobile application. We wholeheartedly support the State’s effort to expand the social safety net by adding more options and increasing accessibility – and we look forward to implementing this progressive change, which will provide our clients with greater choice and flexibility, while supporting our City’s hardworking small businesses.”

Human Resources Administrator (HRA) Gary Jenkins said, “Connecting New Yorkers with the food assistance they need is one our top priorities and a responsibility we take extremely seriously. We’re proud to be part of this effort to bring common sense reforms to this vital program, which will only increase the options available to the millions of New Yorkers who we serve. We applaud the Governor and the State of New York for seizing this opportunity for reform, which strategically brings so many key stakeholders to the table.”

Executive Director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance Andrew Rigie said, “This legislation offers a creative and thoughtful way to support food-insecure New Yorkers with access to hot food and nourishment from restaurants, while also providing relief to the those same restaurants, most of which are small businesses, that have been financially devastated by the pandemic and are struggling to recover. We applaud Governor Hochul for her leadership in signing this important legislation and novel program into law.”

NYS Restaurant Association President and CEO Melissa Fleischut said, “The aftermath of COVID-19 has left many New Yorkers in tough financial positions, unsure of where their next meal is coming from. But the pandemic has taught us that by working together, New Yorkers can accomplish great things. The Restaurant Resiliency Program is a creative way to use that same cooperation to align the needs of food insecure New Yorkers and the amazing individuals in the still struggling New York restaurant industry move forward together. Thank you Governor Hochul, Commissioner Ball, Assemblyman Rodriguez, and our legislative leaders for coming up with this program and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure that this is effectively implemented to benefit New Yorkers and our restaurant industry.”

Feeding New York State Executive Director Dan Egan said, “The Nourish New York program continues to support the three million New Yorkers who need food assistance as well as New York’s food industry. With this announcement, Nourish NY expands to embrace the restaurant sector, which is uniquely placed to provide very high-quality prepared meals to our neighbors in need. We applaud Governor Hochul’s leadership here, and look forward to expanding our great teamwork with the Department of Agriculture and Markets.” 

Dr. Debbie Almontaser, Co-founder of the Yemeni American Merchants Association said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how vulnerable our communities across the state were when it came to food security. The pandemic drastically affected our seniors, disabled, and homeless populations.  Our bodegas, delis, and restaurants across the state saw this first hand as essential workers during the pandemic.  The Yemeni American Merchants Association, its members and I applaud Governor Hochul, Commissioner Ball, Senator Roxanne Persaud and Assemblyman Rodriguez on the signing of legislation S.64/A.1524.” 

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