Today, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney stood with hunger advocates and others at Part of the Solution (POTS) on Webster Avenue to discuss New York State’s participation in a new nationwide pilot program that will allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants to purchase their groceries online.
Borough President Diaz and Congressman Maloney were instrumental in bringing this historic innovation to New York State. This pilot program will offer consumers greater access to affordable groceries, help combat food deserts, promote healthier diet choices and create billions of dollars in new business opportunities.
“This innovative public/private partnerships will help improve nutrition, fight hunger and offer consumers greater choices at competitive prices, all while expanding the marketplace,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “This program is a national game-changer, and I am proud to have worked with Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, as well as advocates and business, to bring it to New York State. The Empire State has always been at the forefront of government innovation, and this pilot program puts our state at the intersection of health, technology and business.”
“Working hand-in-glove with Borough President Diaz, we delivered on our goal of bringing the SNAP program in New York State into the 21st century. This pilot will help make it easier and more efficient for New York families to put food on their tables. New York has always paved the way for new ideas and innovations – this pilot program does just that - and I am proud to stand here today and say that together we brought this program to New York,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney.
Borough President Diaz and Rep. Maloney were joined at the event by advocates for the program, including Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, and Christopher Bean, Executive Director of POTS, as well as Louis Vivarina, a Bronx resident who will be positively impacted by the new law.
“Hunger Free America strongly supports increasing low income people’s access to affordable food. The new USDA online purchasing pilot program will enable low income people in both rural and urban communities, to have fresh affordable food delivered to their door, potentially in areas where fresh food had been previously unavailable to them,” said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America. “We hope to see this program expand to every state in America, so that no hungry person will have to travel long distances in order to get a fresh vegetable.”
“Part of the Solution (POTS) is excited to host Bronx Borough President Diaz and Congressman Maloney for this discussion. A core tenet of POTS is recognizing the dignity of all individuals seeking assistance. POTS believe this pilot is a dignified way to allow for greater access to affordable groceries for our Bronx neighbors,” said Christopher Bean, Executive Director of Part of the Solution.
Borough President Diaz initially proposed such changes in his “State of the Borough” address in February 2016. In July 2016, Borough President Diaz participated in a conference on Capitol Hill to address the need for technological advancements for SNAP benefit users with Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan. The next month, the borough president authored a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack urging his department to select New York State for this pilot program.
Congressman Maloney was integral in drumming up support for the pilot program in Congress. In November, the congressman led his colleagues in the New York State delegation on a letter to Secretary Vilsack, in which they jointly called for New York’s selection in the pilot program.
As part of the pilot program, the USDA has selected two vendors—Amazon and FreshDirect—to serve customers in New York State. Both companies worked closely with Borough President Diaz to bring the pilot program to New York. In addition, FreshDirect launched a similar pilot program in The Bronx, in conjunction with the borough president, in 2012.