Governor Murphy’s innovative $57.6 million program supported purchases from hundreds of local restaurants to feed families throughout New Jersey
TRENTON, N.J. (August 1, 2023) – The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) announced today that it has reached the remarkable milestone of supporting the purchase and distribution of more than five million meals through its Sustain & Serve NJ program. Launched by Governor Phil Murphy in late 2020 as a $2 million pilot program to support restaurants impacted by COVID-19, Sustain & Serve NJ grew into a $57.6 million program that has enabled 36 organizations to purchase meals from nearly 450 restaurants and distribute those meals at no cost to New Jerseyans facing food insecurity. The Garden State is the only state in the country to launch a program of this scale.
“Sustain & Serve NJ brings out the best in our communities – nonprofit organizations working together with their local restaurants to ensure neighbors have access to nutritious meals,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “The enormous benefits of this recovery-focused program can simply not be overstated.”
Through three rounds of funding, Sustain & Serve NJ has enabled 36 grantees to purchase meals from 449 restaurants in 179 municipalities across all 21 counties, distributing nearly 5.4 million meals to New Jerseyans in need. As New Jersey emerges from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and following the conclusion of Phase 3 of Sustain & Serve NJ in August, the lessons of Sustain & Serve NJ will continue to inform and guide NJEDA’s continued efforts to support food security.
“Sustain & Serve NJ started as an innovative model for helping restaurants endure the economic emergency created by COVID-19 and grew to provide over five million meals to hungry individuals and families all over the state,” said NJEDA Chief Economic Officer Tim Sullivan. “We are grateful to Governor Murphy and the New Jersey Legislature entrusting us to deliver on the promise of Sustain & Serve NJ, which has expanded the capacity of our grantees to serve the New Jerseyans that depend on them for food, while lifting up the restaurants that are a source of jobs, culture, and vitality in our communities.”
The NJEDA today issued a report and a video outlining the impact Sustain & Serve NJ has on grantees, restaurants, and New Jerseyans facing food insecurity. A copy of that report and the video can be found here.
Sustain & Serve NJ has been a key part of Governor Murphy’s whole-of-government approach to strengthen the food security of all New Jerseyans. As part of that effort, the NJEDA is putting forth a multi-pronged strategy to eliminate food deserts within the state, supported by funding designated through the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020, which Governor Murphy signed into law in January 2021. More information about the Food Desert Relief Program can be found here. The NJEDA has also launched programs to support food access in Food Desert Communities through the Food Retail Innovation in Delivery Grant (FRIDG) and Food Security Planning Grant. Future food security efforts will be funded through the Food Desert Relief Tax Credit auction, launching later this year. More information about the auction can be found here.
Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin has long championed the creation of programs to combat hunger and has hailed Sustain & Serve NJ as “an integral part of our battle against food insecurity.”
“Sustain & Serve NJ is a model example of the effective partnership between our state, local restaurants, and nonprofits in the fight against food insecurity. The program’s success has been twofold: putting hot meals on the plates of those struggling while also supporting small, often family-owned businesses,” said Speaker Coughlin. “Since it was launched in 2020, Sustain & Serve NJ has helped deliver five million fresh, nutritious meals to those in need. Resources like this are critical as we continue to combat hunger in our communities.”
“Sustain & Serve NJ is a phenomenal example of Governor Murphy’s innovative, solutions-oriented and whole of government approach to helping New Jersey families achieve food security,” New Jersey Department of Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman said. “I congratulate CEO Sullivan and the NJEDA for the incredible success of Sustain & Serve NJ, which has provided financial support to so many small restaurant businesses and non-profits and most importantly, has now delivered five million meals to those in need across New Jersey. And as always, I urge anyone in need of assistance affording groceries to visit www.njsnap.gov.”
“True food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, economic and social access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food,” said Mark Dinglasan, Executive Director of the New Jersey Office of the Food Security Advocate (OFSA). “The Sustain and Serve NJ program supercharged local economies, especially our restaurant industry, while helping provide social services organizations to provide physical and social access to healthy and nutritious food. Not only this, Sustain and Serve NJ also helped our restaurant and nonprofit sectors innovate and co-create solutions. I applaud the NJEDA for their leadership with this program and OFSA is looking forward to continuously supporting their food security efforts.”
In the video, grantees and restaurant owners shared sentiments on the significant impact Sustain & Serve NJ has had on their organizations and communities.
“At the Coalition for Food and Health Equity, we mobilize food,” Coalition for Food and Health Equity Founder & CEO Dr. Leeja Carter said. “We think about not just food security being food on the table, but it’s how do we get food from point A to Point B, the logistics around food. The Sustain & Serve NJ program helped us evolve the work that we were doing here in Hudson County.”
“At the start of COVID, our organization was only providing about 120 to 150 meals per week and then when COVID hit, we were taxed and the demand for meals rose up to 900 to 1,000 meals per week,” A Need We Feed President Mark Blackwell said. “We knew long-term that that wasn’t sustainable in our budget. Then the NJEDA’s Sustain & Serve NJ grant became available, the timing of that was just perfect.”
“Revenue from the meals purchased through Sustain & Serve NJ helped us keep our doors open and our employees paid throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mohamed Elrawy, owner of Pita Square, a restaurant in Newark working with multiple Sustain & Serve NJ grantees. “It’s been an honor working with local organizations like Coalition for Food and Health Equity, Newark Working Kitchens, and University Hospital to get our food into the hands of people who need it most. I cannot speak highly enough about this program.”