Will Fight Obesity & Increase Nutrition in Lower Income Urban & Rural Areas
Expanding access to fresh produce and other healthy food options for New Jerseyans, legislation Assembly Democrats Benjie Wimberly, Gary Schaer and Pamela Lampitt sponsored to increase the availability of nutritious foods in lower income, urban and rural communities was recently signed into law by the governor.
The law (A-2164), known as the “Healthy Small Food Retailer Act,” will assist small food retailers operating in low and moderate income urban and rural communities in New Jersey by providing funds for retailers to increase the availability and sales of fresh and nutritious food.
“This law is designed to boost the availability of fresh produce and other healthy foods, at affordable prices, to residents in neighborhoods that are typically underserved in this area,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Ultimately, our goal is to improve the health and wellness of community residents in low-income and urban areas.”
“Significant challenges are faced by urban and rural communities where access to nutritious food and fresh produce is limited,” said Schaer (D-Bergen, Passaic). “A poor diet can lead to chronic illness and other lifelong consequences. This program will help provide these residents with healthier food options and improve their overall health.”
“Not all communities have the luxury of having a supermarket that is easily accessible by foot or via public transportation,” said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “These families deserve better options than just convenience stores, which often have limited healthy options and tend to be pricier than grocery stores.”
Under the law, funding will be provided to a grantee (non-profit organization) to distribute money to small food retailers.
The law requires the Department of Health (DOH) to develop a “Healthy Corner Store Program” to increase the availability and sales of fresh produce and nutritious, healthy food by small food retailers in rural and urban low and moderate income areas, and to establish a “Healthy Small Food Retailer Fund” to support the program. Monies from the fund may be used for:
· salary and associated administrative costs towards providing education, advice, or other assistance to small food retailers;
· refrigeration, display shelving, or other equipment necessary for a retailer to keep stock of healthy foods and fresh produce, up to $5,000 per retailer;
· materials and supplies for nutrition education and healthy food promotion; and
· mini-grants of up to $100 per retailer to meet initial expenses incurred with participation in the program. Between 10 and 25 percent of the fund would be reserved for the grantee’s administrative and operational costs.
DOH may select one or more grantees to administer the program and distribute funding to small food retailers. The DOH will develop an application process and create eligibility guidelines for any organization applying to be a grantee. To qualify for funding, an applicant is required to:
· be a nonprofit entity;
· demonstrate it has a well-defined public health-driven goa;
· provide assistance to small food retailers located in low or moderate income areas that accept, agree to accept, or apply to accept, as appropriate, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children benefits;
· collect and provide data and information for program monitoring, accountability, and evaluation purposes; and
· establish defined goals, standards, and accountability mechanisms to ensure that expenditures from the fund are appropriate and consistent with the bill’s purpose
DOH will be required to develop specific participation standards for a small food retailer, and consideration will be made for the level of need in the area to be served. Monitoring and accountability mechanisms will be put into place and grantees must submit a report to DOH, by March 1 of each year. In turn, DOH will submit an annual report to the legislature and to the governor, and provide recommendations about the program as necessary.
The Department of Agriculture, under the new law, is also directed to expand the “Jersey Fresh” website to provide opportunities for the establishment of purchasing networks between farmers, distributors, grantees, and small food retailers participating in the “Healthy Corner Store Program.”
The law will take effect immediately.