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Wilson Community Gardens Initiative Advanced by Senate Panel

Legislation would allow schools to serve students fruits and vegetables grown in community gardens, help minimize “urban food desert” effect

(TRENTON) – The Senate Education Committee today approved bill A3019 drafted by Assemblyman Gilbert “Whip” Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester) allowing schools to serve fruits and vegetables grown in community gardens. The measure is another in a series by Wilson to increase access to fresh produce for residents living in the state’s “urban food deserts.”

“Adding produce grown in community gardens to school offerings is a fun way to teach kids about nutrition and their environment,” said Assemblyman Wilson. “There’s no reason students can’t enjoy locally grown fruits and vegetables.”

The bill provides that the soil and water used in the garden must be tested and deemed safe for growing food for student consumption. The produce must be handled, stored, transported and prepared safely in accordance with all applicable federal, state and local health and sanitation requirements.

“Community gardens are one of many tools for combating food deserts,” Assemblyman Wilson added. “For students to take advantage of fresh off the vine produce is a really exciting prospect.”

Previously, Wilson championed the “New Jersey Fresh Mobiles” bill, which was signed into law in January 2012. That law creates a pilot program in which a nonprofit will bring fresh fruits and vegetables to Camden year-round, and sell them at different locations throughout the city. That program was launched earlier this year and the mobile unit has begun selling its produce citywide.

Bill A3019 was approved by the Senate Education Committee unanimously.