NJEDA commits over $5.5M to strengthen food access in Atlantic City

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority on Wednesday announced it will commit over $5.5 million in funding to support a multifaceted approach to immediately expand access to fresh, healthy grocery shopping options for Atlantic City residents.

“Every New Jerseyan deserves equitable access to affordable groceries, regardless of their ZIP code,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. “The funding announced today will support several innovative programs that will alleviate the pressure on countless Atlantic City residents who travel miles out of their community to buy the groceries they need for their families. My administration continues to be committed to expanding access to fresh and healthy foods in Atlantic City and across the state.”

Out of 50 Food Desert Communities in the state, Atlantic City is the second highest-ranked, demonstrating a significant need for interventions designed to reduce rates of food insecurity.

The suite of programs that will be launched by the NJEDA will increase affordable access to produce and healthy food options, ensuring more residents of Atlantic City can purchase groceries right in their community.

“The innovative programs the NJEDA is supporting will strengthen food security in Atlantic City, creating stronger, healthier families and a more prosperous community. I appreciate the commitment of our state and local partners and look forward to working with them as we bring these new, creative ideas to Atlantic City,” NJEDA CEO Tim Sullivan said.

“The residents of the great city of Atlantic City deserve easy access to quality and nutritious foods right here in their hometown,” Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. said. “As my administration continues our quest to combat food insecurity issues, we are extremely grateful Gov. Murphy, the first lady and the NJEDA recognize this glaring need exists in our city and are committed to ensuring our families do not struggle to put fresh food on the table.”

The NJEDA will sponsor initiatives led by two major health care systems in South Jersey to expand mobile and community-based food retail options, bringing fresh and affordable foods directly into Atlantic City communities.

AtlantiCare is a South Jersey-based health care system that has long been addressing food insecurity by operating the Pantry in the Plex in Midtown, from which it serves hundreds of local families on a weekly basis. With this sponsorship, AtlantiCare is able to further expand its food programming to include a retail mobile grocery. AtlantiCare will implement a multipronged approach, including a weekly market and educational event featuring health education, incentives for purchasing healthy items, cooking demonstrations and classes, and assistance with online ordering. Combined, these efforts will support access to healthy food as well as teach community members about meal planning, preparation, and more.

NJEDA’s sponsorship with Virtua Health will allow the South Jersey-based health care system to bring its “Eat Well” mobile grocery store to Atlantic City, in addition to Virtua’s core operations in Burlington and Camden counties. Virtua’s mobile grocery store, which is a 40-foot refurbished New Jersey Transit bus, will allow Atlantic City residents to shop twice a week for fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh and frozen meat, dairy, eggs and other basic grocery staples at below-market prices.

The NJEDA will also launch the new $5.25 million Atlantic City Food Security Grants Pilot Program, which will provide grants ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 to fund projects to strengthen food security and food access in Atlantic City. Grants can be used for direct and indirect project costs.

The NJEDA board also approved providing the New Jersey Department of Health with up to $250,000 to expand its Healthy Corner Store Initiative for stores in Atlantic City.

In the coming months, the NJEDA plans to begin accepting applications for its Food Desert Supermarket Tax Credit program, which features a Supermarket Financing Gap Tax Credit for the development or rehabilitation of new supermarkets in FDCs and a Supermarket Initial Operating Costs Tax Credit to support the first three years of operations for these supermarkets. The tax credits are expected to create a feasible, sustainable path forward for a long-awaited supermarket in Atlantic City.