“By approving the designation of New Jersey’s Food Desert Communities, we are a crucial step closer to directly addressing the impact of food deserts on New Jersey communities and to securing access to fresh and nutritious foods, with real brick-and-mortar food retailers and neighborhood foodservice programs,so everyone feels the comfort of knowing where their next meal will come from,”said Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin.
Though New Jersey is known as the Garden State, access to fresh nutritious foods has not been equally attainable throughout the region. A January 2022 U.S. Census Bureau survey found that nearly one in 13 New Jersey households reported not having enough to eat in the past seven days. The total population of New Jerseyans residing in Food Desert Communities exceeds 1.5 million individuals in all 21 of New Jersey’s counties.
To help with the issue, Governor Phil Murphy signed the Food Desert Relief Act, which is part of the Economic Recovery Act, into law in January 2021. It directs the NJEDA to address the food security needs of communities across New Jersey by providing up to $40 million per year for six years in tax credits, loans, grants, and/or technical assistance to increase access to nutritious foods and develop new approaches to alleviate food deserts.
“Under Governor Murphy’s leadership – and armed with one of the most comprehensive process and methodology for designating Food Desert Communities in the nation – we will continue to work with our sister agencies to create a robust suite of programs to address food insecurity in every county in our state,” said NJEDA CEO Tim Sullivan.
The NJEDA will issue regulations later this year.
The approved Food Desert Communities were based on such factors such as food retail environment, demographics, economic indicators and health indicators. Enrollment in nutrition assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) were included in the factors.
The NJEDA developed the list and methodology for food desert designation in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, along with input from the New Jersey Department of Human Services and New Jersey Department of Health.