TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate Economic Growth Committee Chair Nilsa Cruz-Perez that would require the Department of Health to develop a “Healthy Corner Store Program” to provide funding for small food retailers to increase the availability of fresh and nutritious foods in low income urban and rural communities cleared the Senate Economic Growth Committee today.
The bill, S-1312, would provide funding to a non-profit that would distribute the funds to qualified small food retailers that sell a limited selection of food and other products, such as a corner store or a convenience store.
The bills intended increase in the availability of fresh produce and healthy foods at affordable prices is an effort to improve the health and wellness of the residents in these communities that lack adequate access to full-service grocery stores.
“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 suffer from food deserts. When full-service supermarkets do not operate in these communities residents have to rely on small 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 food, making it impossible to have a healthy diet with the food available.”
The “Healthy Small Food Retailer Act” would appropriate $2 million in funds from the General Fund and would be credited annually from money available from the General Fund by request of the Department of Health. Funding will also be provided by any non-state public or private source.
“This is happening here to our citizens,” continued Senator Cruz-Perez. “When Pathmark closed in Camden in 2013, the city lost its only full-service supermarket. A city of 77,000 people without a major grocery store. Thankfully, PriceRite opened a year later, but it was the first new supermarket to open in the city in thirty to forty years. Food Deserts can happen, and are happening, in our communities. Helping these small food retailers is imperative to ensuring those living in food deserts have access to fresh and healthy foods.”
The bill would require the non-profits to submit a report to the Department of Health by March 1 of every year. An annual report would then be submitted by the Department of Health to the Legislature and the governor.
The bill was released from committee with a vote of 5-0, and next moves to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration.