The Garden State is providing much needed help to the hundreds of thousands of food insecure New Jerseyans. Over the next few years, up to $ 240 million in funding through the state’s Food Desert Relief Act, which is part of the Economic Recovery Act passed by Governor Phil Murphy in January 2021, will be available for designated communities. As an important step in this process, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) has published a draft list of the 50 designated communities of the New Jersey food desert for public comment.
The Food Desert Relief Act calls on the NJEDA to meet the food security needs of New Jersey communities by providing up to $ 40 million per year for six years in the form of tax credits, loans, grants, and / or technical assistance to increase access to nutritious foods and develop new approaches to alleviate food deserts. The law strives to facilitate the development, construction and sustainable operations of new grocery stores within designated desert food communities. It also aims to strengthen existing community assets by equipping them with the necessary equipment and infrastructure to provide healthier food options. In addition, it helps food retailers respond to the shift to e-commerce, including the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
“We have an obligation, as heads of state and as human beings, to ensure that no inhabitant of New Jersey goes to bed hungry, regardless of socio-economic status,” said Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver. “By creating one of the most comprehensive food desert designations in the country, we are leading the country to take the necessary steps to eradicate food deserts and remove the barriers that prevent people in our state from accessing nutritious food.” “
According to recent data from the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, 800,000 New Jersey residents face hunger every day. Feed America noted that 192,580 New Jersey children – one in 10 – go hungry. In addition, the number of people receiving NJ SNAP benefits increased by more than 15%, from 769,331 in September 2020 to 887,467 in September 2021, according to data from the New Jersey Department of Human Services.
In March 2021, the NJEDA issued an Information Request to solicit information on the food security challenges facing New Jersey communities, including specific barriers and disparities within areas considered to be food deserts. . The overall designation includes consideration of factors such as the food retail environment, demographics, economic indicators, and health indicators.
NJEDA encourages the public to provide feedback on the Food Desert community designations by visiting https://www.njeda.com/program-specific-feedback before February 4 or by e-mail [email protected]. The agency will run listening sessions on January 12 and January 13 to solicit input from stakeholders.
“Food insecurity is an ongoing crisis, and gathering public feedback to solidify the designations of food desert communities will help connect hungry residents with fresh agricultural produce grown and produced in many of the 10,000 New Jersey farms, ”NJEDA Secretary Douglas Fisher said.
Meanwhile, government agencies recently helped move Atlantic City from being a food desert. Murphy and Village supermarket Executive Vice President Bill Sumas was among the attendees in November’s groundbreaking ceremony for a new ShopRite in South Jersey, made possible by nearly $ 19 million in public funds.
The largest retailer-owned grocery cooperative in the United States, based in Keasbey, NJ Wakefern Food Corp. comprises nearly 50 members who independently own and operate 363 supermarkets under the ShopRite, the Price Rite Marketplace, The Fresh Grocer, Dearborn Market, Gourmet Garage and Fairway Market banners in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. The company is # 23 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocery 2021 list of the best food and consumables retailers in North America.