UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – In the beginning of October Governor, Kathy Hochul announced a new statewide initiative that puts aside up to $25 million dollars in grants for restaurants that are willing to provide meals for underserved communities.

“It’s really timing is perfect when you think of restaurants and what they’ve faced from the pandemic,” Karen Belcher, Executive Director at Food Bank of Central New York, said. “You know they’ve lost a lot of business, this is a way to help generate extra income for them but it’s also helping those in need in the community. So it’s a win-win for both parties.”

The program is similar to other state initiatives like Nourish New York, multiple agencies across the state were hit hard by the pandemic, like restaurants, farmers, and food donation and distribution systems. That’s why Belcher believes this program came at the right time.

Restaurants that are a part of this program will have to make meals that follow federal nutritional standards, these restaurants will work directly with food banks, and will transfer the meals to families in need.

“Once the partnership is created between the restaurant and the member program of the food bank they will create a meal based on MyPlate,” Belcher explained. “So it has to have those federal nutritional standards in place and they will prepare and deliver those meals directly to the partner agency that the food bank and the restaurant partner with.”

The Food Bank of Central New York received a little more than $2.2 million dollars for this program, but as of this past weekend no restaurants have applied, Belcher and her team hope restaurants will take advantage of these grants, and notes that they have until March to apply.