Trenton – A bill sponsored by Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez and Senator James Beach, which will assist small food retailers operating in New Jersey, was signed into law today by Governor Phil Murphy.
“Access to fresh produce and healthy food is a luxury many of us take for granted,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (Camden/Gloucester). “Low-income and urban communities in our state suffer from food deserts. When full-service supermarkets do not operate in these communities, residents have to rely on small neighborhood corner stores as their primary source of grocery shopping. These stores offer very limited, if any, healthy food options but do offer a vast selection of processed foods, making it nearly impossible to have a healthy diet. Helping these small food retailers expand their offerings would ensure everyone in New Jersey has access to nutritious foods.”
The law will require the Department of Health (DOH) to develop a “Healthy Corner Store Program” to increase the availability of fresh produce and healthy food in small food retailers in rural and urban areas, as well as low and moderate income areas. The DOH will also be required to establish a “Healthy Small Food Retailer Fund” to support the program.
The law will provide funding to a grantee that will distribute the funds to qualified small food retailers who sell a limited selection of food and other products, such as a corner store or a convenience store. Small food retailers will have to meet specific participation standards, in order to receive assistance.
“Every resident of New Jersey should have proper access to fresh produce and healthy food,” said Senator Beach (Burlington/Camden). “This law will ensure nutritious food can be found in community corner stores, which lack access to supermarkets, promoting healthy diets and wellness throughout New Jersey.”
The “Healthy Small Food Retailer Fund” will appropriate $2 million in funds from the General Fund and will be credited annually from money available from the General Fund by request of the DOH.
The law will require a grantee to submit a report to the DOH by March 1 of every year, which will include information concerning the overall geographic distribution of the funding, the amount of funding allocated to each retailer, the health impacts associated with the program, and an evaluation of any data collected from participants. The DOH will submit an annual report to the legislature and the governor.