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(TRENTON) – Legislation Assemblyman Gilbert L. “Whip” Wilson sponsored to create a statewide mobile farmers’ market network and fresh produce voucher program in New Jersey’s urban areas was approved Monday by the Assembly.
“We’re known as ‘The Garden State,’ yet in many urban communities, it is next to impossible for low-income families to purchase fresh produce,” said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester). “By bringing the farm directly to these communities, we’re restoring their access to the Jersey Fresh produce that the rest of us take for granted.”
Under Wilson’s bill (A-3688) the state Department of Agriculture would establish a statewide mobile farmer’s market and fresh produce voucher program, to be known as the New Jersey Fresh Mobiles Initiative, designed to provide improved access to fresh produce for low-income residents of the state’s urban communities.
“Giving low-income, urban families easy access to high quality, fresh, affordable produce will help promote better eating habits and healthy living,” said Wilson. “After all, you can only make healthy food choices if those choices are available.”
Specifically, the department would be required to:
· Develop, annually review for accuracy and make available to the public a map that identifies the location and boundaries of every urban food desert in the state;
· Issue licenses or permits, as necessary, to individuals who wish to become mobile vendors;
· Establish standards, qualifications and conditions for the mobile vendors to ensure the freshness and quality of the produce;
· Designate one or more vendor supply areas to be utilized for vendor sales in each urban food desert, to ensure a high level of accessibility for the community;
· Authorize mobile vendors to purchase and utilize food trucks or other mobile venues for the distribution of their goods;
· Create an inspection and approval or permitting process for said mobile venues, to ensure their sanitation and safety;
· Develop educational and informational materials on nutrition for distribution to consumers;
· Establish seasonal purchasing incentives to encourage consumer participation in the program and to familiarize consumers with what types of fresh produce are available at different points in a season; and
· Establish and regulate a fresh produce voucher program through which discount vouchers would be issued to low-income residents to help them purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from mobile vendors.
A resident would be entitled to a fresh produce voucher only if their household income is less than 185 percent of federal poverty income guidelines; they are currently receiving Social Security income; or are enrolled in the federal food stamp assistance program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; the federal WIC program; the New Jersey Supplemental Food Stamp Program; Work First New Jersey; or any other federal or state nutrition or income assistance program.
The bill was approved 63-12-1 and has now been referred to the Senate Economic Growth Committee.