(Newark, NJ) – If you travel more than a mile to a supermarket, supermarket, or large grocery store with healthy and affordable food options in an urban area, and more than 20 miles in a rural area, you live in what once considered the definition of a food desert. US Department of Agriculture.
This lack of access affects nearly 17 million Americans, according to the Food Access Research Atlas. The data also shows that people who live half a mile or more from food options in urban areas, or 10 miles in rural areas, increase that number to more than 53 million Americans, including those in New Jersey.
In January 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the Desert Food Relief Act, part of the Economic Recovery Act, which will provide about $240 million in funding to combat this problem in the state.
The Desert Food Relief Act provides tax breaks for stores that open in underserved areas, and grants loans and other aid to stores of all kinds to operate in food deserts.
The New Jersey Community Food Bank estimates that 800,000 New Jersey residents deal with food insecurity, and about 200,000 of them are children.
53-year-old Robert Brown of Newark, NJ, drives two miles from his home to ShopRite, without a car, tells ABC News that prices and options are a factor, “I live 20 blocks away, but we have a store downstairs, where I live, but they So high, I come here. There’s no need to spend my money there, and I get a little bit of nothing when I can have everything I need.”
45-year-old Katrina Mosley must take it a step further, as the two-mile trip to ShopRite, her second grocery shopping trip of the day, “I started at 8 a.m., went to Walmart, came home like 1130, rested.” Little bit, take the bus what time is it now, got here like 12 things or 12 or one thing. Shopping done. I take my time at the store to go through things, and now I’m waiting for transportation to get home.”
Mosley relies on two different bus lines, taxis and relatives to pick her up, as she takes her day off from work to feed her family of four, including a daughter with a baby on the way, “so I go to Walmart to get the bulk of the meat because it lasts.” You can make like… one of their meat packs you can make 2-3 servings out of it, it all depends on how you do it.”
Re-transportation is also an issue for Brown, knowing that some options aren’t practical, “If I were to try to get on the bus with this, it would be too much, and it would be too much.”
Tara Colton, executive vice president of economic security for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, says that addressing food deserts, the product of structural racism, neighborhood redevelopment, and divestment, isn’t as simple as building a supermarket, “You can live next door to the coolest market or market. Farmers but if you can not buy
The food that’s in there, or they don’t accept federal nutrition programs like snap, and then it’s inaccessible.”
Sustain & Serve NJ initially started as a $2 million pilot program to help with food security, along with support for the state’s restaurant industry in 2020. The program has evolved into a $45 million initiative, which pays restaurants to deliver ready-to-eat meals directly to these. need. Colton told ABC News, “I often say it’s not about getting people to eat, it’s about getting people to eat. And there are a lot of ways to do that. They can go to a big building and buy it and put it in a van, but you can also centrally bring it to them.” .
Colton promotes the program, “That dollar you spend keeps the restaurant open, the staff working and gives people who often don’t have access to this type of food a healthy, fresh, nutritious homemade meal.”
For those like Mosley who prefer to cook their own meals, despite the many-mile long journey, the focus is not on feeling deprived, but doing what’s necessary for her family, “Those I have to worry about, so that’s what I’m doing for them, shop.” get it done far.”
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