EDA approves rules for $240M Food Desert Relief Tax Credit Program — and tax credit sale to help fund it

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority on Wednesday approved proposed rules for the $240 million Food Desert Relief Tax Credit Program, which will help address food access challenges by attracting and retaining new supermarkets in the 50 Food Desert Communities designed by the EDA last year.

The board also approved the sale of up to $50 million of the $240 million in tax credits in 2023, the proceeds of which will fund future grant, loan and technical assistance programs under the Food Desert Relief Act.

These programs are aimed at helping increase the availability of nutritious foods and developing new approaches to alleviate food insecurity.

To be eligible, stores must:

  • Be located within the boundaries of EDA-designated food desert communities;
  • Demonstrate that the project would not be feasible without the tax credit award;
  • Demonstrate that the supermarket will remain open for business for at least seven years;
  • Commit that the supermarket will accept federal benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program;
  • Commit that the supermarket will accept the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program from Women, Infants and Children;
  • Commit to devoting at least 10% of retail space to fresh and/or frozen fruits and vegetables and host a community listening session in the food desert community at least once a year.

A complete overview of the rules can be found here.

The FDRA allocates $40 million per year for six years, totaling $240 million, in tax credits and enables NJEDA to sell a portion of the tax credits to support future programs.

Proceeds from the sale will be used to support programs that will advance the priorities established by the FDRA and be available to a wide array of organizations, companies and retailers to strengthen food security in FDCs.

These programs will support costs associated with equipment and technology to make nutritious foods more accessible and affordable, as well as other initiatives to ensure food security of FDC residents.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) was especially thrilled by the action, calling it a defining moment in his career.

“This is among my proudest moments in public life,” he said. “Fighting hunger and food insecurity in our state has been close to my heart for decades.

“This is good health and economic policy, in addition to meeting our moral obligations.”

Gov. Phil Murphy said the program fills a need.

“Food insecurity is a widespread and longstanding issue that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, and New Jersey is taking innovative steps to ensure no resident goes hungry,” he said.

“By expanding grocery options in an intentional manner, more families across our state’s food desert communities will be able to put affordable and healthy food on their tables. Fighting food insecurity fosters greater wellbeing for countless communities and families, advancing our vision for a truly stronger, fairer New Jersey economy.”