A growing body of research has found that people with convenient access to a supermarket eat more fruits and vegetables and are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. Recognizing that New Jersey’s lower-income areas are underserved by supermarkets and have high rates of diet-related diseases, the New Jersey Food Marketing Task Force, a public-private partnership including leadership from the supermarket industry, state and local government, community and economic development and public health and philanthropy sectors, calls upon the state of New Jersey to prioritize food retailing for the comprehensive redevelopment of communities.
"Implementing the recommendations outlined in this report will require strong private, public and civic sector leadership to market and attract new supermarkets to New Jersey."
The Task Force made the following recommendations to state officials:
- Employ innovative, data-driven market assessment techniques to highlight demand in underserved communities and identify targeted areas for investment to inform local officials, real estate developers and the supermarket industry.
- Provide assistance in the land assembly process in identified high need areas where local support exists for supermarket and grocery development.
- Reduce regulatory barriers to supermarket investment and expedite permits and licenses for new stores in identified high-need areas.
- Create a one-stop shop for supermarket operators to interface with state government agencies and for marketing public incentives to the supermarket industry.
- Leverage existing economic development programs to support supermarket development as a part of their overall strategy.
- The state and charitable foundations should enhance the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and The Reinvestment Fund’s New Jersey Food Access Initiative with additional loan capital and flexible grants that can be used toward opening and expanding supermarkets.
- Use workforce development programs to ensure that supermarkets develop a qualified staff.
- State, county and local governments, in partnership with supermarket operators, should work with transportation agencies and private carriers to develop safe, affordable and convenient transportation for shoppers who do not have access to a supermarket.
- New Jersey should create an advisory group of leaders from the supermarket industry and civic sector to guide the implementation of these recommendations.
The research study concluded that:
- New Jersey does not have enough supermarkets in lower-income areas of the state;
- Lower-income New Jersey residents suffer from heart disease, cancer and diabetes at rates significantly higher than the general population; and
- In order to improve New Jersey residents’ health and well-being, the state needs to improve access to affordable, nutritious foods.