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

(TRENTON) — The General Assembly Monday approved bill A-3019, 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 deserts.”

“Community gardens are an untapped resource to provide healthy, low-cost snacks for our state’s children, especially those living in food deserts,” said Assemblyman Wilson. “We need to create multiple opportunities to combat childhood obesity, which is plaguing the children living in our urban areas.”

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. The Secretary of Agriculture may also determine additional criteria.

“Passing this bill opens the door for schools to develop curriculum about nutrition and healthy choices, and to tie that curriculum to a physical product that the children can enjoy,” Assemblyman Wilson added.

Previously, Wilson championed the “New Jersey Fresh Mobiles” bill, which was signed into law in January 2012. It created a pilot program in which a nonprofit brings fresh fruits and vegetables to Camden year-round, selling at different locations throughout the city.

A-3019 was passed by the General Assembly unanimously.