Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jessica A. Chittenden

May 16, 2009

Governor Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn Announce Comprehensive Strategies to Expand Grocery Stores In Underserved Neighborhoods

State’s Healthy Food/Healthy Communities Initiative Includes $10 Million State Revolving Loan Fund Program To Finance Food Stores in Underserved Communities

City’s FRESH Program Includes Zoning and Financial Incentives in NYC Communities Underserved by Grocery Stores

Governor David A. Paterson, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn today announced comprehensive strategies to expand and encourage the growth of new grocery stores in underserved neighborhoods. The Governor’s Healthy Food/Healthy Communities Initiative will increase the number of food markets in underserved communities across New York City and State through the creation of a $10 million State revolving loan fund program to help finance the building of food markets.

Governor Paterson also announced low-cost insurance for subsidized projects, incentives for All-Affordable housing proposals to include food markets as part of retail components, a permanent farmer’s market grant program, and financial incentives for food markets to be green and energy efficient. Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn introduced the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) Program, a new initiative that provides zoning and financial incentives to property owners, developers and grocery store operators in areas of New York City currently underserved by grocery stores.

“There are not enough healthy food options in many urban and rural communities throughout New York State. The lack of affordable, nutritious food is negatively impacting the revitalization of many communities, and the health of New Yorkers,” said Governor Paterson. “The Healthy Food/Healthy Communities program combined with New York City’s FRESH program provides incentives to locate energy efficient food markets in underserved communities and connect food markets with New York’s agriculture products.”

“This comprehensive package of zoning based incentives and tax benefits for grocery stores will make it more advantageous to open new stores and upgrade existing stores so that New Yorkers can put healthy food on the table for their families,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Facilitating investment by supermarket owners in these communities is essential to the future health of the city. These initiatives build on the work we began in November 2006 when we created the Food Policy Task Force and named a Food Policy Coordinator as part of a concerted effort to increase access to healthy foods in low-income communities.”

“With too few supermarkets in neighborhoods across the five boroughs and many existing businesses shutting their doors, much of the city is being affected by supermarket shortages, and a lack of access to affordable, healthy foods,” said Speaker Quinn. “Starting in 2007, the Council funded a report on supermarket development and helped organize a Supermarket Commission, to provide us with new recommendations on ways to combat this problem. Working with the Mayor and Governor, we’ve already begun to implement some of these recommendations, helping us bring supermarkets to underserved areas and preserve existing markets that might otherwise be lost.”

The State and City initiatives are, in part, a result of the work of the New York Supermarket Commission, a coalition convened by The Food Trust, including representatives from the City, the State, labor groups, public health advocates, supermarkets and financial institutions. It was established in 2008 because of concerns that New Yorkers were losing access to fresh, affordable foods. Despite a growth in population in New York City, the number of supermarkets has declined by one third in the past six years. Diabetes rates have doubled in the last 10 years. Research shows that the presence of supermarkets in communities helps people maintain a healthy weight, and eat more fruits and vegetables. The Supermarket Commission’s full report is available at

The State’s food market revolving loan fund will be administered by a Community Development Financing Institution chosen through a competetive bidding process. The Community Development Financing Institution will leverage private funding from banks through their obligations under the Community Reinvestment Act.

Other incentives in the Healthy Food/Healthy Communities Initiative include:

  • Housing Finance Authority Funding Preference for Grocery Stores in New York’s All-Affordable Housing Program
  • Mortgage Insurance Fund Low-Cost Project Insurance
  • Department of Agriculture and Markets Matching Grants Program for Permanent Farmers Market Infrastructure
  • New York State Energy Research and Development Authority Funding for Energy Efficient and Sustainable Buildings

More information on the Healthy Food/Healthy Communities Initiative is available at:

The city’s FRESH Program is a new initiative that provides zoning and financial incentives to property owners, developers and grocery store operators in areas of New York City currently underserved by grocery stores. While other localities have restricted unhealthy food outlets or provided funding for supermarkets on individual sites, FRESH is the first program in the nation to combine zoning and financial incentives and to offer them in multiple neighborhoods. FRESH will help create an estimated 15 new grocery stores and upgrade 10 existing stores, creating 1,100 new jobs and retaining 400 others.

Governor Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn also announced that the City has recevied funding from the New York State Department of Health (DOH) to hire a Healthy Food & Fitness Business Development Coordinator to conduct outreach, assist with marketing analyses and help with site selection for additional grocery stores.

Childhood obesity has become a public health epidemic. One out of every four New Yorkers under the age of 18 is obese. In many high-poverty areas, the rate is closer to one out of three. For the first time in history, children have a lower life expectancy than their parents.

Obesity causes serious health problems, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It puts children at greater risk for life-threatening conditions such as heart attacks, stroke, limb loss, and cancer,and it places an enormous strain on our healthcare system. Last year New York spent $6.1 billion to treat obesity related health problems, the second highest in the nation.

Senator Darrel J. Aubertine, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, said: “The Healthy Food/Healthy Communities initiative gives farmers throughout New York State new access to markets in urban areas where too often the residents are underserved. I thank the Governor for recognizing the opportunity to join together local producers and consumers with an opportunity that benefits both. Farm to plate initiatives help our farmers bring the highest quality and freshest products into areas where families often go without quality produce. This revolving loan program is a great way to add space in existing supermarkets and open new grocery stores for New York’s agricultural industry.”

Senator Thomas K. Duane, Chair of the Senate Health Committee, said: “I applaud Governor Paterson and Speaker Quinn for their leadership in introducing the Healthy Food/Healthy Communities Initiative and the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) Program. No longer can we ignore the perils of lack of access to affordable, healthy food and I fully support these new efforts. These programs can be a relatively low-cost way to help mitigate the health issues associated with poor nutrition in our communities statewide.”

Executive Director of The Food Trust Yael Lehmann said: “The Food Trust applauds Governor Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn for their dedication to improving food access and combating childhood obesity. Efforts like the Healthy Food/Healthy Communities revolving loan fund to promote supermarket development are an essential and effective way to improve the health of New York’s citizens.”

Senior Vice President of Community Investment at United Way New York City and Co-Chair of the Supermarket Commission Jennifer Jones-Austin said: “The members of the Supermarket Commission applaud the State and City efforts to attract and retain Supermarkets in high-needs areas. Making healthy food options more easily accessible to poor and low-income families will go a long way in addressing the increasing rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease in New York City and throughout New York State.”

UFCW Local 1550 President Bruce W. Both said: “The Healthy Food/Healthy Communities and FRESH initiatives are innovative approaches to addressing the need for supermarkets, which bring healthy food and good jobs to New York’s neighborhoods. We look forward to continuing our work together to build new supermarkets and retain and expand existing supermarkets.”

President and COO of D’Agostino Supermarkets, Inc., Chairman of the Board of the Food Industry Alliance and Co-Chair of the New York Supermarket Commission Nicholas D’Agostino III said: “We applaud City and State recognition that supermarkets play a vital role in the health of our communities and we are pleased to have been involved in the work of the Supermarket Commission and the subsequent initiatives that are being announced today. These incentive programs will help supermarket operators overcome some of the challenges we face in opening new stores and keeping open our existing stores.”

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker said: “The Governor’s Council on Food Policy found that while farmers in New York produce an abundance of fresh and healthy food, hunger and malnutrition are still serious problems facing many New York residents in both urban and rural communities. Governor Paterson’s initiative will help correct that problem by increasing access to healthy foods through the establishment of food markets in underserved neighborhoods.”

Chairperson and Executive Director of the New York State Consumer Protection Board Mindy A. Bockstein said: “I commend Governor Paterson for his Healthy Food/Healthy Communities initiative to stimulate the development of supermarkets, food cooperatives and other food access points for underserved populations to address the problem of marketplace inequality in New York State. The Governor’s $10 million revolving loan fund program signifies the beginning of the end of ‘food deserts’ in diverse communities. Equally important, this program increases access to better food options at lower costs, thereby improving the general health and fiscal welfare of New Yorkers.”

2009 Press Releases