Press Release
March 29, 2012
3 minute read


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Financial Pledge Quadruples State Investment to Bring Grocery Stores to Underserved Communities Throughout the Garden State

TRENTON, NJ – Furthering the Christie Administration’s commitment to increasing healthy food options in underserved communities, Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno today was on hand to formally launch an expanded New Jersey Food Access Initiative (NJFAI) at the site of New Brunswick’s first full service supermarket in two decades. Joining her were The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), The Food Trust and the New Jersey Food Marketing Task Force. The event marked the release of the Expanding New Jersey’s Supermarkets special report, and the announcement of a major philanthropic investment in the NJFAI.   

“By aligning economic and social objectives, the Christie Administration is helping revitalize communities throughout New Jersey,” said Lt. Governor Guadagno. “Ensuring that all New Jersey families and children have access to healthy food is among our most important goals, and through the New Jersey Food Access Initiative, we will not only improve access to healthy food, but also provide new jobs and business opportunities for local residents.” 

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) first seeded the NJFAI with a $3 million investment in 2009. The RWJF today formally announced a $12 million investment in the NJFAI, quadrupling the state’s investment. 

“The Foundation is proud to be part of this collaboration of diverse community partners working together to ensure that all New Jersey families have access to affordable healthy foods. Our investment in this effort supports our long-term goal of reversing the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015,” said RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA. “We are committed to investing resources in community-based solutions that improve the health of all Americans. Our hope is that this model will spur similar partnerships in communities around the country.”  

Managed by TRF, the NJFAI seeks to increase the supply of affordable, fresh food in underserved areas, while improving health outcomes and spurring economic development. The Fund provides low-cost loans and grants to supermarket operators and developers statewide, with an emphasis on serving ten priority cities, including Atlantic City, Camden, East Orange, Elizabeth, Jersey City, Newark, New Brunswick, Paterson, Trenton and Vineland.             

High start-up costs or limited access to credit often prevent grocery owners from opening new outlets in underserved communities, limiting access to healthy food for local residents.   

“Time and again, we have seen how low-cost capital can help supermarket operators and developers overcome the challenges associated with opening new stores or expanding existing stores in underserved communities,” stated Don Hinkle-Brown, President and CEO of The Reinvestment Fund, which managed the highly successful Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative and provides its expertise to similar programs across the country. “Supermarkets not only increase access to affordable, healthy food but also serve as critical economic anchors and job creators in low-income communities.” 

EDA has also worked with The Food Trust to educate the public and policymakers about the need for fresh food access in New Jersey. This collaboration led to the formation of the New Jersey Food Marketing Task Force, a diverse group of stakeholders that met over the last year to craft a comprehensive plan for supermarket development in New Jersey. The Expanding New Jersey’s Supermarkets: A New Day for the Garden State special report released today represents their findings and policy recommendations for the state, which include:  

  • Reducing regulatory barriers that impede the development of supermarkets, and expediting permits and licenses for new stores in high-need areas;
  • Creating a one-stop shop for supermarket operators to interface with state government agencies;
  • Leveraging existing economic development programs to support supermarket development; and,
  • Utilizing workforce development programs to ensure that supermarkets develop a qualified staff.  

“The recommendations of the New Jersey Food Marketing Task Force, in combination with the investment in New Jersey’s Food Access Initiative, will ensure that women throughout the state are able to obtain healthy and nutritious food to feed their families,” said Michele Tuck-Ponder, co-chair of the New Jersey Food Marketing Task Force, and Executive Director of the Women’s Fund of New Jersey. 

Yael Lehmann, Executive Director of The Food Trust, added, “Research has shown that access to grocery stores matter when it comes to preventing childhood obesity. This enhanced initiative will create jobs, and increase access to healthy, affordable food in the areas most in need in New Jersey.”   

The NJFAI partners recognized the significance of hosting today’s event at The Fresh Grocer site in New Brunswick. The new store is part of the New Brunswick Wellness Plaza, an innovative project spearheaded by the New Brunswick Development Corp. (DEVCO) in partnership with the City of New Brunswick, the New Brunswick Parking Authority, and the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. The Wellness Plaza project and larger Transit Village development was supported by the State through the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Program.   

“The Wellness Plaza is the kind of development we are hoping to encourage through the New Jersey Food Access Initiative,” continued Lt. Governor Guadagno. “I thank all of the partners involved and encourage other foundations and private entities to heed our call and help this initiative make a difference in the lives of families across New Jersey.” 

A copy of Expanding New Jersey’s Supermarkets: A New Day for the Garden State special report can be found here.  

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