Sustainable Jersey Hub focuses on providing healthy foods to those in need

Sustainable Jersey Hub focuses on providing healthy foods to those in need

Cookie Till of Reeds Farm in Egg Harbor Township and Amy Cook-Menzel, co-chair of the Atlantic-Cape May County Sustainable Jersey Hub.

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – The Jersey Atlantic-Cape May County Sustainable Regional Hub event at Reed’s Organic Farm on August 24 focused attention on some of the innovative work being done to connect people in need with fresh, healthy foods. About 50 Green Team members from Atlantic and Cape May counties attended the event to hear from speakers tackling food insecurity in New Jersey.

This event was hosted by Cookie Till of Steve & Cookies by the Bay, of Margate who has established community gardens in Atlantic City and over the past several years has transformed Reds Farm into a non-profit organic farm and animal rescue. He even runs the Margate Community Farmers Market in the restaurant’s car park.

Many green teams and civic groups play active roles in helping community members get healthy food. They grow and donate produce from community gardens, organize farmers’ markets, and promote “buy fresh, buy local” campaigns, said Ralph Cooper, co-chair of the Hub. “This event exposed people to programs and resources they can use to do more.”

The participants began the evening with a walking tour of the farm and its greenhouses, and learned more about the programs and initiatives that it and its employees implemented there.

Janine Cava, co-founder of NJ Food Democracy CollaborativeTalk about actions that can be taken at the municipal level to increase access to food. Cava shared some of the resources they have developed, such as the New Jersey Roadmap for Diet Resilience, advocacy efforts and upcoming projects, including how to conduct audits of the local food system to identify community needs.

Alicia “Lisa” Newcomb crops Communities Revolutionizing Open Public Spaces talked about the farmers markets they run in Lynwood and Atlantic City, and how they made it more accessible by accepting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other benefits. CROPS also operates several community gardens locally and recently received funding for a Mobile Farmers Market Bus that will transport produce and produce to various locations throughout Pleasantville. CROPS is also looking to open a storefront at Tanger Outlets The Walk in the Atlantic City shopping district, which will serve not only as a marketplace but also as a training and education center.

Lisa Martin of Clifton-based City Green spoke about Good food bucksa New Jersey initiative launched by City Green that enables people using SNAP benefits to double their purchasing power when shopping for fresh produce at participating farmers’ markets and retail establishments.

Devin Cornia, CEO of Northeastern Organic Agriculture Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ) introduces to the public the scope of NOFA-NJ services. Cornia has shared his desire to expand NOFA-NJ’s relationships with South Jersey farmers, farmers, nonprofits, and others working to improve access to food in their communities.

and both Rutgers Collaborative Extension, Dr. Claudia Gil Arroyo and Kristen Zellers Cape May County Extension, Belinda Chester and Joan Kinsey from Atlantic Province Extension spoke about the many programs they lead and support with regard to nutrition and food access, including the Master Gardeners and Master Composter training programmes, agricultural assistance to farmers, nutrition education and food preservation training.

Jersey Sustainable Community Engagement Program Director Lauren Skoronsky discussed the actions identified by the Municipal Sustainable Jersey Certification Program and encouraged greater collaboration among participants to increase access to food in their communities.

“We hope this event will inspire and support green teams to expand the work they already do,” said Amy Menzel, Hub Co-President. “We are planning to hold a virtual workshop for the green teams to get help with the application process so that farmers markets can accept the benefits of SNAP/EBT and Good Food Bucks, and I am sure we will see more good things come from the information shared at this event.”

The Atlantic-Cape May Hub was formed to bring local green teams in the two counties together to share resources and support each other. Regular A-CM Hub events are a media outlet to help share ideas and find partnership opportunities on projects and initiatives.

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