For a $25 fee, certified growers have access to the program, and the state is able to track and distribute information about their product availability, specific commodities, pricing, UPC codes, delivery and distribution options, and ability to take New York State vouchers. This information is then made available to participants in the program via the database.
“The Pride of New York program has been heavily advertised, and it’s definitely caught on,” confirms Pelosi, but for him, there are also enormous practical benefits to buying local. “As part of the program, we’ve been buying more from producers in upstate New York. But our reach has also spread to Connecticut, New Jersey, Ohio, and Canada, particularly Quebec.
“It’s much more attractive to have that option in a year when prices have been flat; it doesn’t make sense to truck goods from California when we can expend far fewer carbon miles to bring the same produce in from much closer,” Pelosi adds. “And we can’t forget that when sourcing goods from Canada, the exchange rate is much more favorable. As long as the cycle of good weather continues to hold for our suppliers in New York, it’s a promise that we’ll keep bringing their goods to the market; it’s good for the state and it makes good business sense as well.”
“The move towards sourcing more locally grown produce is definitely the other major trend we’re seeing, especially this summer,” comments Target Interstate’s Kazan, pointing out the buy-local programs like ‘Pride of New York’ and the tendency of trendy New York eateries to tout locally sourced produce and highlight New York-bred meats.
Local availability, “as well as a move to source more produce from Canada, means quality is good and keeps getting better. The freight savings is significant, and the turnaround times allow us to buy on shorter timetables, since deliveries can be made in a day. The growth of farmers’ markets also play right into this ‘buy local’ mindset.”
Giving Back to the Community
In addition to promoting the Pride of New York program, Hunts Point continues to do its part to address the evolving food wastage issue. Just before close each day, merchants donate fading fruit and vegetables—still in an edible state—to a number of community organizations serving the economically disadvantaged, including the Food Bank of New York and City Harvest.
The Food Bank maintains a 90,000-square-foot refrigerator/freezer facility on the Hunts Point premises, and uses these donations to serve 1.5 million people over 18 million pounds of produce a year.
Drawbacks & Hindrances
Challenges continue to abound at one of America’s oldest and most important produce markets. Storage space is at a premium, with fresh fruits and vegetables often kept on trailers to avoid overcrowding. Fuel and labor costs are even more of an issue here than they are elsewhere thanks to a strong union, complex regulations, and the terminal’s multiple transportation throughways.