NJEDA announces new program to fight food insecurity

Matthew Fazelpoor//January 9, 2023

NJEDA announces new program to fight food insecurity

Matthew Fazelpoor//January 9, 2023

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) announced Jan. 6 that a new grant program that aims to strengthen food security in the state’s 50 Food Desert Communities (FDC) was approved at its December board meeting.

The $2.5 million Food Retail Innovation in Delivery Grant (FRIDG) program will assist in the purchase and installation of temperature-controlled lockers to expand food delivery options and improve food access for FDC residents. Applications will open this spring.

Many FDC residents are unable to receive groceries because they lack a reliable delivery location, due to unpredictable work schedules, family obligations or housing insecurity. FRIDG aims to offer FDC residents the opportunity to tap into the growth of online grocery shopping, providing a safe, convenient community location where grocery orders – including fresh produce and dairy – will stay fresh until they are retrieved.

Tim Sullivan, far right, attends Gov. Phil Murphy's signing of an executive order more than doubling New Jersey’s offshore wind goal on Nov, 19, 2019 at Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. (Edwin J. Torres/Governor’s Office)

NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan said the program builds upon the Murphy Administration’s efforts to combat food insecurity and uplift those in FDCs.

“People should be able to benefit from the advancements in grocery delivery and access nutritious food regardless of their zip code,” said Sullivan. “With this new program, we will make New Jersey a leader in pioneering a new approach to food access in partnership with food retailers.”

Under the initiative, food retailers can apply for up to $250,000 in funding to purchase and install self-contained, temperature-controlled lockers in one of the state’s designated FDCs.

To be eligible, food retailers must:

  • have at least one physical location in New Jersey
  • be authorized to accept online orders paid with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits
  • submit an application detailing their plan to purchase these lockers before actually buying one

The lockers must be installed in public places with easy general access to the public.

“Food assistance through SNAP puts food on the table for many New Jersey families. But for residents without ready access to fresh, nutritious food, this assistance is incomplete,” said New Jersey Department of Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman. “The FRIDG program bridges the gap by allowing retailers who participate in the states’ online ordering flexibility to better serve customers where they live and work.”

Tara Colton, NJEDA executive vice president for economic security, said there is no single solution to alleviating food deserts, and this program is a vital element of the administration’s growing portfolio of food insecurity initiatives.

“This program is pioneering a new approach to food access in partnership with food retailers,” said Colton. “By meeting people where they are – literally – we aim to eliminate some of the structural and logistical barriers to fresh and nutritious food that should be the standard for all New Jersey, regardless of where they live.”

The NJEDA is touting the program as a companion to a portfolio of food insecurity initiatives, which includes Sustain & Serve NJ, the Food Security Planning Grant, and the Food Desert Relief Act. NJEDA is also currently seeking public feedback on the Food Desert Relief Tax Credit Program, which supports the development and initial operations of new supermarkets and grocery stores in FDCs.