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NYS Comptroller DiNapoli: Nourish NY Needs Better Oversight to Connect More Food Banks and In-State Farms to Funding



ROCKLAND COUNTY, NY – The Nourish New York program (Nourish NY) was created to help the 1-in-10 New Yorkers facing food insecurity and local farmers by connecting food banks to New York-grown products. However, an audit released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli found the agencies jointly managing Nourish NY may have limited the program’s ability to fund certain food bank purchases, and thus benefit fewer area farmers.

“The Nourish New York Program is vital and addresses significant needs in both rural and urban communities to combat food insecurity,” DiNapoli said. “The state’s Department of Health and Department of Agriculture and Markets need to provide stronger oversight to help the program reach its full potential. Greater and clearer guidance to food relief organizations will enable them to get the funds needed to buy New York-made farm products and should help increase the number of participating farms.”

Nourish NY is jointly managed by the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (Ag & Mkts). The program launched in May 2020 to help with the pandemic’s food supply chain disruptions. It was then permanently signed into state law in November 2021 and has been allocated $147 million in funding through March 2023.

Regional food banks contract with DOH to receive these funds and allocate them to local soup kitchens, food pantries, food banks and other community-based organizations to purchase New York grown farm products. DOH reviews and approves all claims for payments, relying on verification from Ag & Mkts that purchases made with Nourish NY funds meet program requirements.

DiNapoli’s audit revealed DOH approved $22.7 million in purchases from May 2020 through March 2022, despite not having adequate documentation to support the food products were grown in New York as required under Nourish NY. Auditors noted this often occurred because local food providers only submitted lump sum expenses to the regional food banks, as opposed to a breakdown of products purchased, which was not required of them by DOH.

Ag&Mkts could not always verify the source of the farm products purchased despite this being their responsibility. In a review of 165 food purchases, totaling almost $1 million from distributors, neither the agency nor the food relief organization could provide the required documentation.

DOH also provided little guidance to food relief organizations on what administrative costs NY Nourish funding could cover. As a result, the audit found DOH approved over $8.9 million in administrative reimbursement that could not be verified due to insufficient documentation. Auditors concluded DOH needs to improve its oversight, otherwise, funds could be improperly used for expenses not associated with Nourish NY.

Auditors also found that DOH applied Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program standards to Nourish NY. Applying these more rigorous nutritional standards left food relief organizations unable to purchase certain foods commonly produced in New York, such as honey, maple syrup, and whole milk. DOH’s decision to combine funds for both food assistance programs and not supply adequate guidance of these standards to food relief organizations led to some area farms unable to participate in the program. Further, the audit points out that under the law, Nourish NY does not restrict purchases based on whether products meet certain nutritional standards.

The audit determined vendor participation could be increased in the Nourish NY Program. North County had the fewest participants in the program of any region statewide with 16. Vendor participation was also low in the Southern Tier (28), Mohawk Valley (29), New York City (33), Central New York (36), Western New York (39) and Long Island (39), while the Capital Region had the most participants with 102 followed by Mid-Hudson with 97 and the Finger Lakes with 78 vendors. Ag & Markets officials identified measures taken and planned to encourage farmer participation in the program.

“We created Nourish NY as a pandemic lifeline to combat the unprecedented rise in food insecurity while providing crucial support to our struggling farmers,” said State Senator Michelle Hinchey, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Anything that obstructs this now essential state program demands immediate resolution. I thank State Comptroller DiNapoli for conducting this audit, which will realign Nourish NY back to serving everyone it is meant to help—effectively bridging the gap between food bank demand and locally grown food from our farmers.”

“Over the last several months, my colleagues in the legislature and I have been working hard to find solutions to the problems that at least one of these agencies seems to be experiencing with the timely disbursement of the Nourish monies,” said State Assemblymember Catalina Cruz. “The results of the audit conducted by State Comptroller DiNapoli highlights a symptom of the larger systemic issues with the implementation of Nourish, which is creating grave concern amongst farmers, distributors, and food banks. Any disruption of services will absolutely result in our neediest and most vulnerable community members again facing serious food insecurity issues. I sponsored Nourish New York to not only support our statewide local farms but to combat hunger in the neighborhoods needing assistance, and the failure to provide an immediate and full resolution of the issues outlined in the State Comptroller’s report, as well as other problems plaguing the management and administration of monies, guts the entire purpose of the legislation. I want to thank the State Comptroller for his thoughtful and swift response and look forward to an adequate and comprehensive solution from the Executive.”

“I am grateful to State Comptroller DiNapoli for this thorough and critically needed audit of the implementation of Nourish NY,” said State Senator George Borrello. “As a member of the bipartisan coalition that worked to establish Nourish as a permanent program, we all have great dedication to this initiative and its mission and want to see it succeed. The path towards that goal starts with adopting the recommendations of this audit. I am particularly gratified that the report concurs with me and my colleagues that the decision to merge the funding for Nourish NY and HPNAP led to challenges and needs to be overhauled. Addressing that issue as well as the others outlined in the report represent the blueprint for the program’s growth and impact for years to come.”

“Nourish NY provides aid to hundreds of New Yorkers across the state grappling with food insecurity,” said State Senator Monica Martinez. “It is critical this program aligns with its original intent and remains a sustainable and accessible option for food relief organizations. Eligibility requirements should be clearly communicated to avoid a reduction in participation and ensure nutritional food assistance needs are being met.”

“As conceived, Nourish NY’s purpose is both noble and necessary: to combat food insecurity while supporting our local farmers,” said State Senator Rachel May. “The State Comptroller’s report offers useful recommendations to improve this new and evolving program, and I believe that both departments will work together to enhance the documentation process, boost vendor participation, and properly serve the residents and farmers across our state.

“We applaud Comptroller DiNapoli for his dedication to improving New York State’s efforts to combat hunger,” said State Assemblymember Michaelle C. Solages, Chair of the NYS Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus. “The Nourish NY program, championed by leaders like Assemblymember Cruz and other members of the Caucus, plays a pivotal role in providing critical food services to underserved communities. It is great to see both the Department of Health and Ag & Markets responding positively to State Comptroller DiNapoli’s audit, and we anticipate collaborating with all stakeholders to further enhance this vital program.”

“The Nourish New York program was designed to help bolster the efforts of local food banks and food pantries by building partnerships with local farms, furthering the ability for food insecure New Yorkers to receive assistance,” said State Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Housing. “Especially here in New York City, the need for food relief has only grown since the start of the pandemic and with the rising cost of groceries, families are struggling to get by. It is my hope that the recommendations outlined in State Comptroller DiNapoli’s audit will be quickly implemented so that communities around the state can benefit from the strong collaboration between farmers and hunger prevention organizations that the program envisioned.”

“It is disappointing to hear that Nourish NY has lacked the crucial support and oversight it needs,” said State Assemblymember Kimberly Jean-Pierre. “This program was designed to help New York’s farmers, combat food insecurity, and strengthen our communities. It is clear the lack of oversight has hindered this program from reaching its highest potential. Food banks are critical to my constituents and utilized by community members from all walks of life, including veterans, senior citizens and families facing food insecurity. Recommendations such as improved guidance, stricter oversight, and increased data analysis will help ensure the program’s effectiveness. I applaud the State Comptroller for looking into this issue and look forward to his recommendations being implemented. Our farmers and communities deserve no less.”

“The Nourish New York program is vital in helping support struggling New York families as well as local farmers statewide,” said State Assemblymember Keith P. Brown. “Without it, families reliant on food banks and pantries would not have access to nutritious, locally grown foods provided by area farmers. I fully support the efforts of State Comptroller DiNapoli to seek to expand Nourish NY, so food banks have the funding required to purchase healthy farm-to-table foods for New Yorkers battling food insecurity.”

“As a strong advocate of Nourish New York, it is evident that the findings of State Comptroller DiNapoli’s audit highlight the need for improved communication, documentation, and criteria to ensure the program’s success in our communities,” said State Assemblymember Fred W. Thiele Jr. “This program is not only essential for supporting our local farmers but also for providing nutritious food to those in need across our communities.”

To help improve the program DiNapoli’s audit recommends:

DOH and Ag&Mkts work together to establish criteria for Nourish NY purchases that most effectively balances the needs of its various stakeholders and improve communication of that guidance to food relief organizations and vendors.
DOH and Ag&Mkts improve oversight of Nourish NY, including reviewing processes to enhance documentation requirements and ensure purchases are from eligible sources.
DOH communicate guidance to food relief organizations on eligibility requirements for purchases made under the Nourish NY program.
Ag&Mkts improve vendor participation data collection and reliability, and use this to build the program’s effectiveness and increase participation by farms, producers or processors in the program.

In response, DOH and Ag&Mkts generally agreed with the audit’s recommendations and are looking to improve NY Nourish and their collaboration to further support the program’s mission of helping more food banks and farmers. To date, the program has helped food relief organizations purchase more than 94 million pounds of New York products and supported 4,333 farms and agricultural businesses across the state. The agencies’ responses are included in the audit.

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Rockland Community College Ranks #10 in Military Times 2023 Best For Vets Colleges



ROCKLAND COUNTY, NY – Rockland Community College (RCC) is ranked as the #10 institution in the Northeast & Islands region in the prestigious Military Times’ 2023 Best for Vets: Colleges rankings, the largest and most comprehensive ranking of schools for military service members and veterans. The recognition reflects RCC’s commitment to providing exceptional educational opportunities and support for military-connected students.

“We are thrilled to celebrate RCC’s recognition as the #10 institution in the Northeast & Islands region for supporting our student veterans,” said Dr. Lester Rápalo, RCC President. “This achievement reflects our commitment to serving and supporting our military students, as we continue our mission to transform the lives of our community members through education.”

Each year, a survey is distributed to colleges and universities nationwide, inquiring about their programs for veterans. The survey, along with public data from the Department of Education and Department of Veterans Affairs, are analyzed to create an official ranking. Colleges and universities were asked to participate in the survey, and the Military Times data team analyzed the responses, resulting in the creation of a highly regarded and impartial annual ranking of these institutions. This year, the list includes 325 schools, marking an increase of almost 5% compared to the previous year.

Rockland Community College attained the following positions in the 2023 rankings:

Overall Rank: 131
Rank in Northeast & Islands: 10
Rank in At least 2 but less than 4 years: 18
Rank in Primarily in-person: 113
Rank in General Education: 124

RCC’s Veterans Affairs department provides comprehensive support services to military-affiliated students, including assistance in identifying and applying for educational benefits, academic guidance, and enrollment certification to the Veterans Administration.

“I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the transformative impact of our dedicated efforts in support of our veteran students firsthand,” said Jonathan Barnwell, the RCC Assistant Director of Judicial and Veteran Affairs. “This recognition reaffirms our progress in providing imperative support and resources to our military students.”

For a decade, Military Times Best for Vets: Colleges has aided and support to the military community by delivering trusted ranking and reporting on the top schools for veterans. The rankings have become a primary resource for schools to publicize their veteran programs, aiding veterans in making important decisions about their educational planning and how to use the education benefits acquired through their military service.

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Senator Harckham Bill Expanding Access to Lifesaving Fentanyl Testing Kits Signed by Governor Hochul



STONY POINT, NY – On the third anniversary of the passing of Matthew Horan, a Westchester resident with Substance Use Disorder who died of a fentanyl overdose, New York State Senator Pete Harckham and Assemblymember John T. McDonald III announced today that their bill known as “Matthew’s Law,” which allows pharmacists to dispense testing kits to detect drug adulterants like fentanyl, has been signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul.

“To stop as many overdoses as we can before they occur, it is critical that we make sure testing kits for fentanyl and other adulterants are widely available,” said Harckham, a member of the Senate Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse who served as its chair from 2018 through 2022. “Thanks to Governor Hochul for signing this bill into law, these lifesaving tools will be stocked now in every pharmacy in New York, for starters. I am grateful to Kailey Horan, whose brother Matthew is one of the many individuals we have lost to fentanyl and the namesake of this new law, for spurring me to introduce it.”

Added Harckham, “Not everyone is ready for Substance Use Disorder treatment at the same time. We have a moral obligation to help people stay alive until such time they may be ready to access help. It’s important to get the word out that fentanyl test kits should be used because they save lives.”

“The increase in drug overdose deaths is a public health crisis that requires immediate action and novel strategies,” said McDonald, a registered pharmacist. “This legislation can help save lives by providing tools to identify the growing presence of alterants like fentanyl in the illicit drug supply. The opioid and overdose crisis continues to evolve in dangerous and unpredictable ways, and we must do everything we can to provide our communities with tools to prevent as many of these deaths as we can. I thank Governor Hochul for her commitment to helping New Yorkers in this public health crisis.”

Over 109,000 people died from a drug overdose in 2022, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released in May 2023; and fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, was the cause of 68.8% of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths—over 75,000 people. The bill (S.2009C / A.5200B), a version of which was introduced last year, is called “Matthew’s Law” in honor and memory of Matthew Horan, after his sister, Kailey Horan, had requested Harckham find a way to make fentanyl testing kits more commonplace and easier to procure after her brother ingested the drug unknowingly.

Prior to the enacting of “Matthew’s Law,” fentanyl testing strips, which can detect the presence of fentanyl in different narcotics (such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana) and in various drug forms (pills, powders, injectables), have been inaccessible in most communities statewide. Until recently, the testing strips were distributed almost exclusively by Substance Use Disorder treatment providers and harm reduction organizations at locations that are few and often far between.

Opioid overdose deaths attributable to fentanyl have increased sharply in recent years, as opioid prescriptions decreased because of concerns of abuse and drug reformulations to counter rampant abuse led to users seeking street sales of illicit painkillers, which are often spiked with fentanyl. As little as two milligrams of fentanyl can be a lethal dose.

Matthew’s Law allows healthcare professionals who are licensed, registered and authorized to prescribe prescription drugs to dispense fentanyl testing kits to any person. The kits can be stored at a licensed pharmacy, hospital, clinic or other health care facility, as well as at retail stores that contain a pharmacy department. Transactions will be limited to five testing kits at a time.

Matthew’s Law passed the New York State Senate unanimously and goes into effect 30 days after its signing on November 17, 2023.

Rules and regulations regarding the dispensing of adulterant test kits in New York will be set by the state’s DOH commissioner. Harckham and McDonald’s bill models the August 2022 standing order from the DOH commissioner to make naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication, available at pharmacies statewide.

Harckham and McDonald’s legislation, signed by the Governor, providing for the distribution of testing kits at pharmacies, will significantly increase ready access to testing kits in communities across the state. By making drug testing more accessible, Matthew’ Law will reduce accidental overdoses and save lives.

Kailey Horan said, “We want to express our deepest gratitude to Governor Hochul for enacting Matthew’s Law. Her commitment to addressing the critical issues surrounding substance use disorder is commendable, and we are grateful for her leadership in creating positive change for New Yorkers.”

Horan added, “We would also like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Senator Harckham for his instrumental role in the passage of Matthew’s Law. Working with Senator Harckham has been a privilege, and we knew that his dedication and expertise were crucial for the success of this legislation. We believed that he was the only Senator capable of passing this bill with almost unanimous support, and he did. He will always have a special place in our hearts, and we’re so appreciative to have had the opportunity to collaborate with him.

“Special appreciation is also owed to Sylvie Sherlach, Legislative and Committee Director for Senator Harckham; her relentless dedication played a pivotal role in championing Matthew’s Law. Sylvie’s unwavering commitment to the cause and her efforts to keep our family informed throughout the legislative process have not gone unnoticed. Her invaluable contribution has brought about this significant change for New Yorkers. Sylvie is a force; we are eternally indebted to her for her remarkable efforts.

“Once again, thank you, Governor Hochul, Senator Harckham, Sylvie Sherlach, Assemblyman John McDonald III, and the Harckham team for your collective efforts to bring about positive change and ensure that Matthew’s Law becomes a reality.”

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