November 11, 2015
It may be hard to believe that in one of the nation’s wealthiest states, thousands of New Jersey families lack access to healthy, affordable foods because they live in communities with few, if any, supermarkets. But, the fact is, nearly 10 percent of the state’s population does not have easy access to stores that sell fresh produce and nutritious staples. This lack of choice is forcing them to buy what’s available, not necessarily what’s healthy.
Disparity in food access is impacting the wellbeing of many NJ families and their communities. Obesity, diabetes and other diet-related diseases are disproportionately higher in neighborhoods where residents lack access to nutritious foods. These areas are also cut off from the economic benefits that accompany anchor supermarkets: steady jobs, increased property values, and additional retail investment.
The New Jersey Healthy Corner Store Initiative is a public health and economic development strategy that’s addressing these inequities in five pilot cities by capitalizing on a vast network of existing corner stores. It’s reinvesting in these neighborhoods by collaborating with corner stores to increase nutritious options. Local partners are providing small retailers education, training and support to profitably sell affordable, healthy food. Through this initiative, many store owners have been able to bring additional investment and jobs to the community.
While the need for more supermarkets in underserved areas clearly remains, utilizing corner stores to increase healthy food access is proving to be an effective and cost-effective strategy to provide these families with more nutritious options now. It is also bolstering local economic development efforts by capturing retail dollars that would otherwise be spent outside of the community. Legislation has been introduced—S-3043/ A-4505—that would enable the expansion of the NJ Corner Healthy Corner Store Initiative to additional New Jersey communities that lack access to affordable, healthy foods.
We respectfully urge you, as a leader in New Jersey, to join us in supporting S3043/A4505, the “Healthy Small Food Retailer Act.” By promoting healthy food access, this legislation not only strives to reduce obesity rates and improve overall health, it also promotes economic growth in areas of our state that sorely need greater investment and jobs. Please contact Corinne.Orlando@heart.org to let us know if we can add your organization to our list of supporters. Thank you in advance for your consideration.