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Improving Access to Fresh, Affordable Foods

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Newark to Offer Affordable, Healthier Food Options for Residents
Through the office of the Newark Philanthropic Liaison, CNJG recently had the opportunity to convene a group of funders with the Brick City Development Corporation (BCDC), a nonprofit that is working with the City of Newark to improve access to fresh, affordable foods for Newark residents.

BCDC's Fresh Foods Program Farm Stand Initiative will link New Jersey farmers with 11 Family Success Centers located at public housing developments and nonprofit agencies. Operated by BCDC, the initiative will expand Newarkers’ access to fruits and vegetables, increase use of WIC Farmers’ Market Vouchers and Food Stamps, and educate residents about the benefits of nutrition and physical activity.

Newark’s 283,000 residents currently have little access to nutritious, affordable fresh fruits and vegetables. Only three full-size supermarkets operate in the city, and Newark residents report a scarcity in supermarkets stocked with nutritious food products. The South and West Wards, the city’s most underserved neighborhoods, are not served by full-sized supermarkets or farmers’ markets. 

Lack of fresh foods access is linked to troubling statistics for individuals of color and low-income individuals. A multi-state study found that wealthy neighborhoods have over three times as many supermarkets as low-wealth neighborhoods, and predominantly white neighborhoods have four times as many supermarkets as predominantly black neighborhoods. Nationwide about 44% of Latino and 40% of African American youth are overweight, and obesity rates are three times above average in low-income districts. The State of New Jersey has the highest rate of obesity in 2-5 year old children in the country, and about 56% of its residents are at risk for obesity-related illness. In 2004 the City of Newark WIC Program found that 18.2% of children under age 2 were overweight, higher than both the national average of 13.6% and state average of 16.8%. Similarly, 20.8% of children over age 2 were found to be overweight.

When grocery stores and other fresh-food retailers, such as farmers’ markets, are present, they have a direct impact on residents’ patterns of consumption: a 2002 study found that black Americans’ fruit and vegetable intake increased by 32% for each additional supermarket in the census tract. Farmers’ markets have an even more dramatic effect: another study found that women who had access to farmers’ markets consumed more fruits and vegetables than women who had access only to supermarkets. 

BCDC anticipates launching the Fresh Foods Program Farm Stand Initiative in the spring of 2009.