Provide more equal food in the Garden State

Jay Watson

Everyone needs to eat, but not everyone in New Jersey has equal access to fresh, healthy, and nutritious food.

In the state we are in, there are many “food deserts,” communities with no place to buy groceries. Food deserts mainly exist in cities with few supermarkets and lack of transportation for low-income households to shop elsewhere.

This lack of access is often referred to as ‘food insecurity’, but it is also sometimes referred to as ‘nutrition insecurity’. The problem is not that there is no food at all. It’s a lack of healthy food. Many food desserts have lots of fast food outlets and convenience stores.

The lack of fresh food leads many city dwellers to eat highly processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt. This can lead to various health problems such as obesity and diabetes.

The New Jersey Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA-NJ) wants to help improve nutritional security, food justice and health in the Garden State.

One of the projects I’m working with with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation is opening hundreds of acres of state land to minority and novice farmers who can’t afford to buy their own land.

Another project provides freshly harvested fruits and vegetables at affordable prices to low-income urban dwellers.

“New Jersey may be the most diverse state in the country, but it doesn’t dedicate a lot of resources to developing young farmers and encouraging organic farmers,” said Nagisa Manabe, executive director of NOFA-NJ. I’m here.

The future of New Jersey’s food system and how to provide healthy food for all residents was the theme of NOFA-NJ’s 32nd Annual Winter Conference, held online January 29-30. .

The first day of the conference was devoted to food justice and building a better food system.

“I thought the winter conference would be a great way to reintroduce NOFA-NJ as an organization that is serious about diversity and inclusion issues in our state,” Manabe said.

First day of conference It began at the call of Chief Vincent Mann, leader of the Turtle Clan of Ramapho Lenape Nation in northern New Jersey.

Three years ago, Mann started an organic farm on low-cost leased land owned by the nonprofit Foodshed Alliance. Mann is currently starting a pilot farming project on the state’s fish and wildlife land.

Another morning speaker was Winona LaDuke, Founder and Director of Honor the Earth, who spoke about the impact of the climate crisis on farmers, especially Native Americans.

The morning session also introduced the Farm Share Program, which enables NOFA-NJ to introduce Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) into currently inaccessible urban areas.

In the CSA model, consumers pay farmers before the growing season in exchange for a weekly share of freshly harvested produce in the summer and fall.

The Farm Shares offer subsidizes CSA payments and makes more healthy food available to eligible city dwellers.

in the afternoon Speaker Karen Washington, owner of Rise & Root Farm in the Bronx, NY, spoke about “Feeding Cities in a Changing Climate.”

Another speaker was Raj Patel, co-author of “Inflamed,” a study on the lasting effects of colonialism and discrimination on oppressed groups.

Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, owners and chefs of Philadelphia’s vegan restaurant The Bedge, spoke about the growing popularity of plant-based diets and their benefits.

The final speakers on the first day were U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Corey Glover, leader of rock band Living Color. Their talk, “Food, Justice, and People,” discussed the impact of food insecurity on New Jersey and the country, and its impact on agriculture.

Senator Booker, a longtime vegan, co-sponsored a Senate bill that would provide compensation for farmers of color illegally and unfairly deprived of access to land.

The first day concluded with a screening of “Voices from the Wastelands – Indigenous Peoples, Blueberries and Sovereignty,” a film documenting the wild blueberry harvest of the Wabanaki people from the United States and Canada.

The second day of the conference focused on the practical issues of growing organic crops in New Jersey. This includes trees and shrubs that are ideal for planting on farms and in home gardens for a perennial harvest of nuts and berries.

Strengthening New Jersey’s local food system in the face of climate change and making it more equitable for all New Jerseyans is critical to the state’s health and well-being.

Eating locally reduces air pollution caused by transporting food long distances, and sustainable organic farming helps slow climate change by storing carbon in the soil and plants.

To see a map of New Jersey’s ‘food desert’, visit

Jay Watson is Co-Executive Director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.He can be reached at [email protected]

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