HMH awarded $3M to make fresh produce more accessible to families in need

HMH will partner with grocery retailers through the Fresh Match program to make fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible to low income families

A new program called Fresh Match will launch this fall that will make fresh produce more accessible to families in need, according to an announcement from Hackensack Meridian Health.

On Wednesday, HMH CEO Robert Garrett joined New Jersey Department of Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge), Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-Perth Amboy), grocery retailers, regional fruit and vegetable producers and community partners at the Raritan Bay Area YMCA in Perth Amboy to celebrate the health system receiving a $3 million grant from the state of New Jersey.

The health system is partnering with grocery retailers in seven counties to expand New Jersey’s Nutrition Incentive Program.

“Hackensack Meridian Health is dedicated to collaborating with community partners to build healthier communities, and this grant will help us reach more people where they live and shop,” Garrett said. “By expanding programs like the state’s Nutrition Incentive Program, we are providing a more holistic and equitable approach to health that will improve outcomes.”

The grant is from the state of New Jersey, which aims to increase food and nutrition security among low-income communities while also providing a boost to local economies. The funding is enabling Hackensack Meridian Health to develop and launch Fresh Match, providing financial incentives to families in need to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables. New Jersey legislators were instrumental in helping to secure the grant.

According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 Americans are eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, with even greater disparities among low-income Americans. Cost is one of the primary barriers to consuming these healthy foods for families in need.

“Food and nutrition security is a basic and essential human need,” Adelman said. “Expanding access to fresh, healthy foods will better power our state’s greatest asset: our people. We have partnered with legislative leadership to expand the Minimum Benefit Program for SNAP recipients, and Gov. (Phil) Murphy’s administration and New Jersey Human Services are proud to support innovative programs like this through the state budget.”

Under the Fresh Match program, families receiving New Jersey’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits can go into a participating grocery store and receive a dollar-for-dollar match to buy fresh produce.

For example, if an individual using their SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer card buys $10 or less worth of fruits and vegetables at a participating grocery store, they will receive a dollar-for-dollar match for up to $10 toward buying more fresh produce during their next visit. Hackensack Meridian Health will be partnering with grocery stores and community partners to reach SNAP households in areas that face food insecurity.

“Innovative programs like this will be instrumental in our efforts to ensure access to healthy food in every community,” Coughlin said. “This is a perfect demonstration of what we can accomplish when the state works with health care providers and local businesses to find solutions. We increased resources for SNAP and grants like this to alleviate hunger and food insecurity. I’m so pleased to see Hackensack Meridian Health establish this program so quickly.”

According to the USDA, prices for fresh fruits and vegetables have increased, making this program even more critical for low-income families.

Hackensack Meridian Health’s food and nutrition program is part of the network’s groundbreaking social determinants of health program, Healthy Connections. Addressing social determinants of health is not only important for improving overall health, but also for reducing health disparities that are often rooted in social and economic disadvantages. Research shows that health outcomes are driven by many factors beyond health care, including socioeconomic factors, health behaviors and underlying genetics.

Fresh Match will be rolling out to 13 grocery stores across seven counties in New Jersey throughout the fall. The participating grocery stores include:

  • C-Town of Perth Amboy
  • ShopRite of Bricktown
  • ShopRite of Carteret
  • ShopRite of Hackensack
  • ShopRite of Lodi
  • ShopRite of Neptune
  • ShopRite of Passaic
  • ShopRite of Perth Amboy
  • ShopRite of Shrewsbury
  • ShopRite of South Plainfield
  • ShopRite of Watchung
  • Supremo of Perth Amboy
  • Supremo of Plainfield