NJEDA releases draft list of 50 N.J. food desert communities

In the latest of a series of steps Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration is taking to eliminate hunger within the Garden State, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority on Tuesday released a draft list of 50 communities designated as “food deserts” for public feedback.

The draft of 50 Food Desert Communities includes a diverse range of communities in every county across the state. Most recently, ground was broken in Atlantic City to bring a new ShopRite to the community — the first grocery stores the city has had in over 15 years.

Tim Sullivan. (File photo)

“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,” NJEDA CEO Tim Sullivan said.

The Food Desert Relief Act 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.

Sheila Oliver.

“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,” Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said. “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 act strives to facilitate 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 arming them with the necessary equipment and infrastructure to provide healthier food options. Additionally, it is designed to help food retailers respond to the shift to e-commerce, including for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

The draft Food Desert Community designations were developed 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.