Application portal open: N.J. looks to award $2M to buy meals from struggling restaurants

The Sustain and Serve NJ Program, an innovative $2 million grant program that will provide funding to organizations to purchase meals from restaurants that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and distribute them at no cost to New Jersey residents, has begun taking applications, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority said Wednesday.

Eligible organizations can receive grants of at least $100,000 for prospective bulk purchases of meals from New Jersey-based establishments.

Applications are due Jan. 8, 2001. Get more information here.

Restaurants may not directly apply for this grant, but they can let it be known that they would like to provide meals to those organizations that get the grants.

Restaurant owners can complete the Sustain and Serve NJ Restaurant Interest form here.

Tim Sullivan, the CEO of the EDA, said the program is another way the state is attempting to help the restaurant and hospitality sector — one of the hardest hit. Without assistance, 37% of New Jersey restaurant owners predict they will have to close in the next six months.

“The NJEDA’s COVID-19 relief efforts have prioritized supporting industries and communities that have been the most severely impacted by the pandemic,” he said. “We know the restaurant industry has been hit particularly hard, and we are committed to ensuring restaurants have the resources they need to stay in business while keeping their employees and customers safe.”

Here’s how the program will work:

  • The program will be open to entities, including 501(c) nonprofit organizations, that are legally registered to do business in New Jersey and are in good standing with the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development and the New Jersey Division of Taxation;
  • Grant applicants will be required to demonstrate prior bulk purchases of 3,000 or more meals valued at $50,000 or more from New Jersey-based restaurants between March 9 of this year and the date of application launch (the NJEDA will not provide reimbursements for meals purchased prior to the program launch);
  • Applicants will need to identify the restaurant or restaurants from which they will be purchasing meals. To receive funding, the partner restaurants must have 50 or fewer employees; maintain a physical commercial location in New Jersey; be legally registered to do business in New Jersey and in good standing with the Department of Labor, Division of Taxation and (where applicable) the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control; and possess valid certification from municipal or county government inspection showing a current rating of Satisfactory per the New Jersey Retail Food Establishment Rating system;
  • Restaurants will also have to certify that they were in operation on Feb. 15, 2020, and detail how their business has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the EDA, grant funding awarded through the Sustain and Serve NJ Program will be restricted to expenses related to the direct cost of purchasing meals, as determined by participating restaurant(s). This cost may include the restaurant’s cost of food and ingredients, labor, packaging, facilities and profit margin. Sales tax and gratuity cannot be paid for using grant funds.

Reimbursement will be capped at $10 per meal. No other expense incurred by the grantee, whether in support of the meal purchase from the restaurant or otherwise, is eligible. Grant funding can only be used to support expenses incurred between the date of grant execution and April 30, 2021.