Credit: Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

The New Jersey Food Democracy Collaborative (NJFDC) has released two companion reports based on public input, the NJ Roadmap for Food System Resilience and The New Jersey Food System in a Nutshell, that discuss the future of New Jersey’s food system. The primary authors of the reports include Jeanine Cava, M.S., Stockton University, Sara Elnakib, Ph.D., MPH, RDN Rutgers University, Rachel Fisher, Stockton University, and John Gershman, M.A., New York University and Rutgers Environmental Stewards Program.

The Roadmap report highlights the potential for more equitable food access and an enhanced agricultural sector in New Jersey by considering the voices of over 300 food system stakeholders and leaders between 2020 and 2021. The report’s key content speaks to current issues and recommendations for constructing a food system that promotes environmental, social, and racial justice. From citizens to law and policymakers, this content is accessible to anyone interested in learning more about people and planet-supportive food and farming in New Jersey.

The New Jersey Food System in a Nutshell report provides a foundation for understanding the challenges and opportunities of the state’s food system explained in the Roadmap report. Data are presented that reflect current, pressing issues according to state organizations and agencies. Some of these issues focus upon economic justice and climate change mitigation.

“This is a great report that will help build an equitable and resilient Food System in the state of New Jersey!” said Dr. Omolola Taiwo, Executive Director of the New Jersey Department of Health Office of Primary Care and Rural Health.

This report explores the goals and approaches for accomplishing this vision and describes 11 “Core Opportunities for Action” to achieve a more equitable and resilient food system for the Garden State:

  1. Adopt a Holistic Food System Perspective
  2. Streamline Food System Governance and Develop a State Food Charter
  3. Improve Knowledge and Assessment of the Food System and Increase Transparency
  4. Operationalize Effective Processes for Inter-Agency and Multi-Sector Collaboration
  5. Foster Multi-Sectoral Food Policy Councils Across NJ
  6. Leverage Federal Nutrition Programs to Support Access to Food Across NJ
  7. Bolster Local Food Economy Infrastructure
  8. Implement Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Recommendations in the Food System
  9. Adequately Support, Integrate and Expand Existing Programs
  10. Connect and Expand Fresh Food Purchasing Incentive Programs for Full State Coverage
  11. Strengthen Livelihoods Across the Food System

These core opportunities for action are supported by 52 specific recommendations organized in three tables that explain perspective, process, and collaboration opportunities to mobilize these action ideas. The actions are organized based on where the change could be initiated from: State Government, University/Research Community, or Multi-Sector, for example.

“This document was written as a tool for all ‘food citizens’ in the Garden State: from farmers to policymakers, parents and students.  It is an ambitious attempt to weave together the important work being done by so many food and farming organizations in NJ to present a holistic view of food issues and a Roadmap for us to get where we need to go, in a more coordinated and collaborative way,” said Jeanine Cava, Lead author, Co-Founder and Lead Facilitator of the NJFDC.

Suggested lead parties, such as the NJ Legislature, the NJ Department of Agriculture, Hunger Free NJ, City Green, and Rutgers Cooperative Extension, are included for each of the 52 actions.

“The Roadmap for Food System Resilience outlines a pathway to address food insecurity where it counts most, at the local, neighborhood and personal level.  This report is must-reading to help inform New Jersey’s newly created “Office of Food Security Advocate” which will soon help coordinate anti-hunger efforts statewide.” said Gary Sondermeyer, Vice President of Operations at Bayshore Recycling and Co-Chair of the New Jersey Climate Change Alliance.

“Thanks to the good work of the Food Democracy Collaborative, this comprehensive approach to understanding the nature and needs of NJ’s food system will serve to increase collaboration among stakeholders as well as guide us all towards a more sustainable, healthy, and equitable Garden State,” said Devin Cornia, Executive Director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey.

“The NJFDC is a much needed and highly valued nexus of communication in this rapidly evolving, critically important and somewhat fragmented field,” said Lily Mehl, Executive Director of the NJ Association of Conservation Districts.

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