Officials adopt final list of 50 communities potentially eligible for $240 million Food Desert Relief Act funding
February 11, 2022
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) approved a final list of 50 food desert communities in New Jersey at a recent board meeting. Over the next few years, up to $240 million in funding will be made available through the Food Desert Relief Act to enhance food security in these communities and combat food deserts.
The Food Desert Relief Act, part of the Economic Recovery Act (ERA), helps communities across New Jersey by providing up to $40 million annually for six years in tax credits, loans, grants, and/or technical assistance. meet the food security needs of Increase access to nutritious foods and develop new approaches to alleviate food deserts. NJEDA plans to issue regulations later this year. This is an important step in the development of programs related to the Food Desert Rescue Act.
“New Jersey has long been at the forefront of the fight against food insecurity,” said Lieutenant Sheila Oliver, Commissioner of the Community Affairs Department. “We have a moral obligation to reduce food insecurity in our state, and the programs we have created under the Food Desert Relief Act will provide much-needed New Jersey residents in 50 designated food desert communities. It will strengthen our ability to make nutritious food accessible to all.”
A January 2022 U.S. Census Bureau study found that nearly 1 in 13 New Jersey households reported not eating enough in the past seven days. The total population of New Jerseyans living in the Food Desert community is over 1.5 million across diverse communities in all 21 New Jersey counties.
Congress Speaker Craig Coughlin has been a vocal advocate for finding ways to eliminate food deserts and played a key role in the passage of the Food Desert Relief Act.
Congressional Speaker Craig J. Coughlin said: “By approving the designation of the New Jersey Food Desert Community, we take an important step in directly addressing the impact of food deserts on New Jersey communities and ensuring access to fresh and nutritious foods. We offer a service program so everyone can rest easy knowing where their next meal is coming from.”
The Food Desert Communities designation includes consideration of factors such as the food retail environment, demographics, economic indicators, and health indicators. NJEDA worked with the New Jersey Department of Social Services (NJDCA) and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) to develop a list and accompanying methodology for the designation of food desert communities, with input from the New Jersey Department of Human Services. I took it in. (NJDHS) and New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH).
NJEDA will issue a Request for Information (RFI) in March 2021 on food security challenges facing communities across the Garden State, including specific obstacles and disparities within communities considered “food desserts.” I asked for insight. RFI also solicited feedback on the specific criteria for designation as a Food Desert Community. This list was developed based on feedback received through the RFI process, as well as information gleaned from surveys and other public sector organizations. The final list has been revised to incorporate written and verbal input submitted by members of the public, based on the Food Desert Community draft list released in January 2022.
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