Jersey City’s Healthy Corner Store Initiative continues to expand as officials cut the ribbon on the third Healthy Corner Store, Los Montones at 432 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
The Healthy Corner Store Initiative is a citywide effort, led by the Department of Health & Human Services, to increase healthier food options in neighborhoods that lack access, including the Greenville and Bergen-Lafayette areas of the city.
The initiative provides corner store owners with training assistance, marketing materials, consumer education resources, and equipment so that they can offer healthier food options.
“Corner stores are ubiquitous in Jersey City and have the potential to improve the health disparities associated with the lack of healthy food access in underserved neighborhoods,” said Mayor Steven Fulop. “By increasing the network of healthy corner stores, we are able to help tackle the matters of malnutrition and improve the health and wellness of Jersey City residents.”
In 2018, JCHHS received a $10,000 grant from the New Jersey Healthy Communities Network to implement the Healthy Corner Store Initiative.
The effort began with two stores, Privilege Food and Denisse Supermarket, in Wards A and F, respectively. Privilege Food at 466 Ocean Ave. hosted a ribbon-cutting event with Mayor Fulop and has progressed through various trainings and marketing changes. Denisse Supermarket at 761 Ocean Ave. held its ribbon cutting in the spring of 2018.
According to a 2018 city report, much of Jersey City could be described as a “food desert.”
The USDA defines a food desert as “a low-income census tract where either a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store.”
This means at least 500 people or 33 percent of the population live more than a mile from a supermarket or large grocery store.
According to the city, these desserts have led to an increased rate of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and other diet-related illnesses in the more marginalized communities of Jersey City. Neighborhoods without healthy options such as Ward A and Ward F also have high concentrations of fast-food restaurants.
While much of the city has a lack of access to affordable, healthy food options, some have turned to at-home delivery services like FreshDirect, Amazon Fresh, Blue Apron, and others to get healthier food. But these can be expensive or require a minimum upfront purchase, which can be a deal breaker for Jersey City’s low-income population.
“Successfully increasing healthy food access plays a vital role in the overall health and wellbeing of our neighborhoods and our city as a whole,” said Stacey Flanagan, Director of HHS. “We are focused on making it easier for our residents to make good food choices. With healthier options, they can swap out the high fat, high sugar foods and avoid diet-related diseases while reaping the benefits of a healthier diet.”
At the event, HHS in partnership with the American Heart Association, NJ SNAP-Ed, the Jersey City Medical Center, and the Hispanic American Commerce Association (HACA), offered cooking demonstrations, nutrition and wellness education, health screenings, and giveaways.
Those who attended also received “Bodega Bucks,” which can be redeemed for three dollars of heart-healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, no-sugar-added drinks, and whole-grain products.
Residents also get access to low-cost fresh food at eight seasonal farmers’ markets held daily throughout the city, all of which accept SNAP/EBT vouchers, WIC vouchers, and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program vouchers.