NJ to subsidize meals from 160 COVID-hit restaurants for neediest residents

Daniel J. Munoz//February 25, 2021

NJ to subsidize meals from 160 COVID-hit restaurants for neediest residents

Daniel J. Munoz//February 25, 2021

New Jersey is covering the costs for 160 pandemic-hit restaurants to prepare meals for some of the state’s neediest residents, under the new state aid program Sustain and Serve New Jersey.

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which runs the program, says it expects to provide $14 million meant to keep afloat restaurants hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions, reduced capacity, and overall consumer anxiety about the pandemic.

Grants go toward nonprofits across the state that buy meals in bulk from local restaurants and provide them to residents in need. The NJEDA expects the program will entail the purchase of 1.5 million meals from 160 New Jersey restaurants in 69 cities across the state, with grants to those nonprofits coming in between $100,000 and $2 million.

While restaurants cannot apply for any such grants, they can still promote themselves as businesses that can take part in the program and prepare the bulk meals.

Of that $14 million, $2 million was through a pilot program in December, after which the NJEDA approved an additional $12.4 million “due to the enormous interest from organizations and restaurants throughout the state.”

Like most of the NJEDA’s other COVID-relief programs for businesses, this one is financed through federal COVID- relief funds.

“New Jersey’s restaurants were hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the outpouring of interest in Sustain & Serve NJ underscores the community’s desire to help local restaurants and the neighborhoods they serve,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a Feb. 25 statement.

“The positive economic impact of this program for the restaurant industry, combined with the good it will do in the community, makes Sustain & Serve NJ a home run.”

Tim Sullivan, the NJEDA’s chief executive officer, said the widespread interest in the program demonstrates an “eagerness from organizations statewide to support local establishments within their communities.”

Aid the Hungry Inc based in Hightstown received a $2 million grant to buy meals from restaurants in Bergen, Camden Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean and Union counties, according to the NJEDA.

The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, based in Neptune, is getting a $1.3 million grant to buy bulk meals from restaurants in its namesake counties, as well as Middlesex County.

In Bergen County, the Ridgewood-based HealthBarn Foundation and the Teaneck-based Holy Name Medical Center Foundation are getting a $1 million and $2 million grant respectively.

Newark Working Kitchens, based in the state’s largest city, is receiving a $2 million grant to buy meals from Newark Restaurants.

Audible, an anchor institution in the city, launched the program last April. Don Katz, Audible’s chief executive officer, said in a Feb. 25 statement that NWK has been a “vital response model for aiding the Newark communities most affected by COVID-19.”

And, he continued, it has the added benefit of providing “thousands of meals to our neighbors while helping local restaurants stay open and retain jobs.”

The New Jersey Farmers Cooperative in West Cape May is getting a $1.5 million grant to buy meals from restaurants in Cape May County.