The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) announced an additional $5 million in state funding Dec. 20 for Phase 3 of the Sustain & Serve NJ program.
The initiative, which launched during COVID, provides nonprofits with grants to purchase meals from Garden State restaurants. Those meals are then distributed at no cost to recipients.
Sustain & Serve grew from a $2 million pilot program into a more than $57 million initiative that has supported the purchase of over 4 million meals from upward of 400 restaurants in all of the state’s 21 counties.
The funding announced Tuesday will enable the purchase of an estimated 450,000 additional meals.
“Sustain & Serve NJ is a unique tool with a proven track record of enabling nonprofits to buy meals from local restaurants to combat food insecurity,” said Gov. Phil Murphy in a press release. “Food banks and other nonprofits statewide are seeing a rising demand this holiday season and this added $5 million for Sustain & Serve NJ will significantly aid their efforts to connect New Jerseyans with nutritious meals.”
NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan said the funding allows the state to combat hunger while supporting local restaurants — noting that the program is a key component of efforts to strengthen economic security across the state, which also include working to eliminate food deserts, bolstering the child care sector, and creating a Maternal and Infant Health Innovation Center.
“Sustain & Serve NJ grantees are working extra hard this holiday season to feed their neighbors and support their communities,” said Sullivan.
NJEDA Executive Vice President of Economic Security Tara Colton said they are taking a holistic approach to ensuring New Jerseyans’ basic needs are addressed, placing a large focus on food security.
“Sustain & Serve NJ has the ability to transform lives – both by bolstering the restaurant industry and bringing nourishment to New Jerseyans in a respectful and dignified manner,” said Colton.
Triada Stampas, president and CEO of Fulfill, said that because of the rise in cost of living, many pantries report they are serving even more people than at the height of the pandemic.
“Sustain & Serve NJ has been a critical tool to help address the food security needs of our neighbors,” said Stampas. “Over the past two and a half years, we were able to work with 35 restaurant and catering businesses to provide over 701,000 meals to our neighbors, while also helping those businesses survive during a really challenging time.”d