Healthier Food

Bill to Bring Healthier Food Options to Urban & Rural Communities Goes to Governor

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Benjie Wimberly, Shavonda Sumter and Mila Jasey to provide fresher and healthier food choices to residents in urban and rural communities where healthy food options are limited was approved 30-3 Thursday by the Senate, giving it final legislative approval.

The bill was approved by the Assembly in April and now goes to the governor.
The measure (A-1877) would require the state Department of Health (DOH) to develop a "Healthy Corner Store Program" to increase the availability and sales of fresh produce and nutritious, healthy food by small food retailers in rural and urban low and moderate income areas. 

"Access to healthy food is vital to healthy living and saving money on medical costs," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "This is, quite simply, the right thing to do."

The bill would establish a "Healthy Small Food Retailer Fund" that would support the program. Monies from the fund could be used for:

      • salary and associated administrative costs towards providing education, advice, or other assistance to small food retailers;
      • refrigeration, display shelving, or other equipment necessary for a retailer to keep stock of healthy foods and fresh produce, up to $5,000 per retailer;
      • materials and supplies for nutrition education and healthy food promotion; and
      • mini-grants of up to $100 per retailer to meet initial expenses incurred with participation in the program. No less than 10 percent of the fund would be reserved for the grantee's administrative and operational costs.

        Under the bill, the DOH would select one or more grantees to administer the program and distribute funding to qualified small food retailers. The DOH would develop an application and selection process. To qualify for funding, an applicant would be required to:
        • be a nonprofit entity;
        • demonstrate it has a well-defined public health-driven goal;
        • provide assistance to small food retailers located in low or moderate income areas that accept, agree to accept, or apply to accept, as appropriate, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children benefits;
        • collect and provide data and information for program monitoring, accountability, and evaluation purposes; and
        • establish defined goals, standards, and accountability mechanisms to ensure that expenditures from the fund are appropriate and consistent with the bill's purposes.
      • The DOH would need to develop specific participation standards for a small food retailer, and consideration would be made for the level of need in certain areas to. A grantee would establish monitoring and accountability mechanisms for participating retailers, and if necessary enforce the agreements. The bill would require a grantee to submit a report to the DOH, by March 1 of each year, which would have to include information concerning the geographic distribution of the funding, and an evaluation of any data collected. In turn, the DOH would submit an annual report to the Legislature and to the governor, and provide recommendations about the program as necessary.