Sustain & Serve NJ, the incredibly creative and successful program that provides meals for the needy while helping small businesses in a true win-win situation, has been approved for an additional $5 million in state funding from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, it was announced Tuesday.
Sustain & Serve NJ provides nonprofit organizations with grants to support the purchase of meals from New Jersey restaurants that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 and the distribution of those meals at no cost to recipients.
The announcement represents phase 3 of the program — and comes at a time of year when nonprofits are facing peak demand for food assistance. The funding is expected to support the purchase of an additional 450,000 meals over the holiday season.
Since it was launched during the pandemic as a $2 million pilot program to boost restaurants impacted by COVID-19 while combating rising food insecurity, Sustain & Serve NJ has grown into an over $57 million program that continues to bring much-needed food to people across New Jersey.
Since February 2021, Sustain & Serve NJ has supported the purchase of more than 4 million meals from over 400 restaurants in all 21 counties with grants totaling $57.5 million through three rounds of funding.
“Sustain & Serve NJ is a unique tool with a proven track record of enabling nonprofits to buy meals from local restaurants to combat food insecurity,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. “Food banks and other nonprofits statewide are seeing a rising demand this holiday season, and this added $5 million for Sustain & Serve NJ will significantly aid their efforts to connect New Jerseyans with nutritious meals.”
Earlier this year, 31 New Jersey nonprofits were approved to receive a total of $17.5 million through Phase 3 of Sustain & Serve NJ. Each of these awardees will now receive additional funding to support their efforts.
EDA CEO Tim Sullivan said Sustain & Serve NJ grantees are working extra hard this holiday season to feed their neighbors and support their communities.
“Gov. Murphy has championed Sustain & Serve NJ since the beginning, and we are grateful to him and the Legislature for continuing to provide the resources we need to combat hunger every day of the year while supporting local restaurants throughout the Garden State,” he said.
Sullivan said the program is a key part of the EDA’s efforts to strengthen the economic security of all New Jerseyans.
The EDA is putting forth a multipronged strategy to eliminate food deserts within the state and to bolster the child care sector, an industry whose critical importance was highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The EDA is also working with partners statewide to create a Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Center in Trenton as part of First Lady Tammy Murphy’s Nurture NJ initiative to make New Jersey the safest and most equitable place to give birth in the country.
Tara Colton, executive vice president of economic security at the EDA, said food security is a big priority.
“Sustain & Serve NJ has the ability to transform lives — both by bolstering the restaurant industry and bringing nourishment to New Jerseyans in a respectful and dignified manner,” she said.
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) applauded the additional funding.
“This additional $5 million committed to Sustain & Serve NJ partners will go extra lengths in making sure more families see hot and freshly prepared foods on their tables this holiday season, into the New Year, and beyond,” he said. “And that’s incredibly critical as our food banks report sharp increases in food insecurity among our communities.”