Dear Editor,

In New Jersey, corner stores are often the only place in the neighborhood to buy food. Unfortunately, many of these corner stores or bodegas face barriers to offering healthy items, like lack of refrigeration, storage, and training to sell and market the items.

In June, the Legislature passed the “Healthy Small Food Retailer Act," which would create a structure to provide resources to expand efforts that improve access to healthier food in all communities. Expanding such programs throughout the state could be beneficial to those living in areas where finding healthy food is still an issue. Investment in healthy food access programs can have a big impact on health, but can also boost local economies. After establishing and investing in a Healthy Corner Store Program, Philadelphia saw a $1.1 million increase in earnings, $140,000 increase in tax revenue and the creation of 38 jobs in a 30 month period between 2010 and 2012.

Assisting small business owners in offering healthier products to meet the demands of their customers is a cost-effective way to expand access to healthy food in "food desert" communities. It also provides opportunities for economic growth, job growth and community development. I urge the governor to sign the "Healthy Small Food Retailer Act" as a first step toward addressing healthy food access and to ensure that all residents of New Jersey are able to purchase the healthy items they need to feed their families in the neighborhoods where they live and work.

Thank you,

 

Corinne Orlando

Director of Government Relations

American Heart Association | American Stroke Association

Robbinsville, NJ