(Center Square) – The $1.5 Million Food Security Planning Grant pilot program will award grants to local governments and redevelopment agencies. The grant aims to leverage distressed assets, such as vacant buildings, to improve food access to food desert communities in New Jersey.
Tara Colton, vice president of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, told Center Square that NJEDA is asking community members to identify distressed assets such as old wooden storefronts, empty warehouses and vacant lots.
These assets could be turned into places where food cooperatives and farmers deliver and receive their produce to support food security, Colton said. A vacant lot could become a community garden.
Program personnel recognize that community members have the best perspective of local needs. As such, rather than being an eyesore, members of the community are asked to bring these distressed assets to the community and suggest ideas for utilizing them in something that serves their needs.
Colton expects NJEDA to award 12 to 20 grants, ranging from $75,000 to $125,000.
“We have been approved to commit up to $240 million to combat food insecurity and alleviate food deserts across New Jersey,” she said.
The agency has made this a pilot program to learn how to best deploy these resources to meet community needs, Colton said.
There is a need for these programs. In New Jersey, about 763,000 people, or 9% of her population, reported food insecurity in 2019, said Lisa Pitz, assistant director of Hunger Free New Jersey at her The Center Square. told to
“We know these numbers are likely to be higher as a result of the pandemic and its continued economic ramifications,” Pitts said.
Prices for food and everything else have also gone up significantly, she said.
Food pantries said Pitts said demand for food aid remains high.
Under the leadership of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, NJEDA’s goal is to develop a toolkit for improving food access and food security. Colton said other programs include giving retailers tax credits for opening supermarkets and grocery stores in communities that historically had no retailers of that kind.
NJEDA also seeks to strengthen small or resource-poor community assets that need help obtaining freezers, or to build the technology needed to take advantage of the growing trends surrounding online grocery shopping. she said she hopes.
Some food desert areas don’t have big grocery chains, only convenience stores or corner stores with no healthy options, Pitz said.
“We are convening several meetings between NJEDA people and these stakeholder community groups so they can learn more about the Food Desert Project, but their community We’ve also been looking at what they think could be a potential solution to that problem in , because, of course, it looks different,” she said.
One model for getting food to people is a hub-and-spoke model, with one main store or warehouse, Colton said. Pickup locations, like freezer lockers, are then placed there for residents to pick up and pick up groceries.
Another related program, Sustain and Serve New Jersey, provides grants to nonprofit organizations. The nonprofit uses those funds to buy meals from local restaurants in bulk and distribute them for free, she said. Dollar Pilot announced her program.
“It’s been a huge success, with about 4.5 million meals purchased today, making it a $45 million program,” Colton said.