On Wednesday, November 24, 2021, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced a $500,000 award to City Green supporting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) statewide nutrition incentive program, The Garden State Good Food Network. Over three years, the award from the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) will support the Garden State Good Food Network’s effort of advancing food equity through a fruit and vegetable affordability initiative while improving economic opportunities for local farmers. This funding is critical at a time when food insecurity, exacerbated by COVID-19, is at an all-time high.
New Jersey Senator, Cory Booker, released the following statement celebrating the federal investment into the State of New Jersey: “This federal funding is an important step toward more residents of the Garden State having access to fresh and local produce. Nearly nine out of 10 SNAP recipients face significant challenges maintaining a healthy diet at home – the most common being the cost of healthy foods. Nutrition incentive programs like the Garden State Good Food Network make healthy, fresh produce more accessible to families in need and have a positive impact on food insecurity, health, and also economic development by encouraging SNAP shoppers to reinvest their benefit dollars into the local economy. City Green’s programs are a model of food system reform taking place at the local level, and this grant will help them continue to support New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents and local farmers.”
The USDA GusNIP grant required a dollar-for-dollar match. Partners for Health Foundation joined these foundations in supporting this effort, allowing City Green to draw important federal dollars to support nutrition incentives in New Jersey: Russell Berrie Foundation, Victoria Foundation, Schumann Fund for New Jersey, Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, and a generous Anonymous Donor.
“We are excited that this funding will allow us to continue the expansion of our statewide Garden State Good Food Network into more farmer’s markets, and now into traditional retail outlets in rural, suburban, and urban communities of New Jersey,” said Jennifer Papa, Executive Director of City Green. “As a food access and urban farming organization, we are especially interested in growing the impact of the program which connects SNAP households to local farmers, their communities, and nutritious food.”
Today the Garden State Good Food Network program provides SNAP beneficiaries with a dollar-for-dollar match for fresh produce when they shop at any of the 20 participating NJ farmers markets and retailers in 10 counties, which together are home to approximately 195,000 New Jersey SNAP households. The GusNIP funding will allow City Green to double the number of Garden State Good Food Network farmers markets and grocery retailer partners (to 40 total), and expand into 3 new counties by the end of the three-year grant period, while also deepening City Green’s reach in existing Garden State Good Food Network communities. By 2024, City Green expects that more than 65% of SNAP-using neighbors will live in a county with a participating farmers’ market or retailer, a critical step in ensuring that all of our neighbors can enjoy the Garden State’s freshest produce.
“The Garden State Good Food Network incentive program benefits our farmers and our citizens, and it is vital to creating more equitable and sustainable local food systems in New Jersey. This funding ensures that City Green can continue to expand this program, while addressing the specific needs of our communities by strengthening our local economies and ensuring that healthy produce is available to all,” said Lisa Martin, City Green’s Director of Food Access.
The projects supported through the GusNIP award will help New Jersey ultimately achieve two long-term goals: to improve public health through the reduction of chronic diet-related diseases, and to create a sustainable and thriving local food system. The lack of access to affordable, healthy food is a public health concern that results in high incidences of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Increasing the capacity of farmers markets and grocery stores to offer Good Food Bucks will help the 12% of New Jersey households that receive SNAP benefits more easily afford fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition to improving the health of consumers by making fresh produce more accessible, the funding provided by the USDA will strengthen the local economy by providing increased revenue to local farmers and retailers. Incentive programs attract and retain thousands of customers at farmers markets each year, and expanding this program to retailers in counties all over New Jersey creates further opportunities to provide an important revenue stream and consistent customer base for our local farmers.
This year’s GusNIP grantees represent the diversity and dynamism of the work being done across America to increase fruit and vegetable purchasing among SNAP consumers
by providing incentives that stretch their food dollar. This year’s GusNIP grants awarded a total of $34 million to 39 active GusNIP grantees. This statement comes on the heels of the August announcement that SNAP benefits will permanently increase by $376 million dollars beginning in October, signaling an investment in food access and nutrition security for 700,000 New Jerseyans.
City Green is a 501(c)3 urban farming and gardening organization, based in Clifton, New Jersey working to revitalize urban areas through agriculture and educational programming. It offers practical, technical, and financial resources in support of environmental stewardship, equitable access to healthy food, and ecologically sustainable communities.
For more information contact Jasmine Moreano, Director of Community Engagement and Advocacy or visit www.citygreenonline.org.