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May 24, 2023

A new community market aims to reduce food insecurity in South Jersey

The Community Fresh Market — created by meal-prep company Green Chef and the Food Bank of South Jersey — will provide free food twice a month

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free community market Provided Image/Green Chef

Green Chef and the Food Bank of South Jersey are fighting food insecurity by offering a twice-a-month community market with free produce, protein and dairy products.

Food insecurity is the inability to access sufficient food to meet basic needs. The number of people struggling to access quality food is a persistent problem across the country, including South Jersey, where 1 in every 14 people suffers from food insecurity; for children, it is 1 in every 11, said Fred Wasiak, president of the Food Bank of South Jersey.

With an opportunity to help those in need, the food bank teamed up with the meal-prep company Green Chef to start the Community Fresh Market, a free farmers market–style community market that provides organic produce, dairy and proteins. It will also host cooking classes and nutritional programs that teach dietary guidelines and recipes for the foods they're receiving.

The market will take place at various locations across South Jersey twice every month. Upcoming locations can be found on the Food Bank of South Jersey's website, and the schedule for classes can be found here.

"With inflation continuing to contribute to higher food costs, it's critical that nutritious and fresh food is accessible to individuals and families experiencing food insecurity," said Adam Kalikow, senior vice president and managing director of meals kits at HelloFresh. "We're grateful to the Food Bank of South Jersey and community volunteers for hosting Community Fresh Markets and helping us connect with our neighbors in need. Our hope is that these farmers markets will provide fresh ingredients to make nourishing meals at home."

The free farmers market–style community market debuted today at Woodbury Junior/Senior High School Pantry at 25 N. Broad Street in Woodbury, N.J. The high school pantry distributes food from 9–11 a.m. every fourth Wednesday of each month.

"These Community Fresh Markets will have a great impact on food-insecure families, children, seniors and individuals in our region. The Food Bank could not fulfill its mission to strengthen and make sustainable change in our communities without incredible partners like Green Chef," Wasiak said. 

In 2021, South Jersey communities like Burlington County, Gloucester County, Camden County and Salem County had 5.6%, 6.6%, 9.1% and 10.1% food insecurity rates, respectively, according to data from Feeding America. Across the entire state, an estimated 812,440 people face hunger due to lack of access to food; of them, 197,280 are children, the hunger relief organization said.

To bridge the food access gap, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority started a grant program in January to incentivize grocery store owners to purchase refrigerated food lockers for grocery deliveries. In addition, the lockers installed at libraries and community centers allow community residents in food deserts to pick up grocery deliveries when they can. 

Food insecurity has links to mental and physical stress; increased risk of obesity; higher rates of anemia, asthma, depression and anxiety; and a higher risk of hospitalization. 

The ending of COVID-19 programs like extra SNAP benefits (when President Joe Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023) only added to healthy food scarcity, according to the Philabundance food bank. Plus, current inflation has increased the demand for pantries.