Newark Designated Top 10 'Food Desert' in NJ, Residents Encouraged to Provide Input

“We have an obligation as state leaders, and as human beings, to ensure that no New Jerseyan goes to bed hungry, regardless of their socioeconomic status,” said Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver. “By crafting one of the most comprehensive food desert designations in the country, we are leading the nation in taking necessary steps to eradicate food deserts and remove the barriers keeping our state’s residents from accessing nutritious food.”

The potential funding could help thousands of underserved residents in Newark, a city where more than 2,000 citizens do not live within one mile of fresh food and vegetables, Rutgers University-Newark Earth and Environmental Science Professor Ashaki Rouff said in 2018. 

Recent data from the Community Food Bank of New Jersey revealed that 800,000 New Jersey residents face hunger every day, with 887,467 residents receiving NJ SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) as of September 2021. This number represented a 15% increase from September 2020 when 769,331 received NJ SNAP, according to data from the state Department of Human Services. 

“We are proud to unveil a robust definition of a Food Desert Community that is both reflective of the unique context of New Jersey and supportive of the hundreds of thousands of individuals affected by hunger every day,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “Today’s action to share the draft Food Desert Community designations with the public is the latest in a series of steps Gov. Murphy’s administration is taking to eliminate hunger within the Garden State.”

The Food Desert Relief Act is aimed to facilitate the development, construction, and sustainable operations of new supermarkets and grocery stores within designated Food Desert Communities. It also aims to strengthen existing community assets by equipping them with the necessary resources and infrastructure to provide healthier food options.

Additionally, the act is designed to help food retailers respond to the shift to e-commerce, including SNAP and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

In March, the NJEDA issued a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit insight into food security challenges faced by communities across the state, including specific obstacles and disparities within communities that are considered “food deserts.”

The RFI also asked for feedback on specific criteria for the Food Desert Communities designation. The recommendations announced this week included feedback received through the RFI process and input compiled from research and from other public-sector organizations. The designation considered multiple factors, including food retail environment, demographics, economic indicators, and health indicators.

In November, the NJDA also announced that $10 million in American Rescue Funds were being provided to community food banks throughout the state.

“Food insecurity is an ongoing crisis and gathering public input to solidify the Food Desert Communities designations will help connect residents facing hunger with fresh farm products grown and produced at many of New Jersey’s 10,000 farms,” said the state Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher.

Residents can visit or email [email protected] to offer input before Feb. 4. The NJEDA will host listening sessions on Jan. 12 (register here) and Jan. 13 (register here) to solicit stakeholder input.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-01-06 03:11:34 -0800