NEWARK — For the first time in New Jersey, a hospital will begin accepting SNAP benefits as payment for food offered on premises.

The move by Newark Beth Israel Medical Center is in response to the 114,000-plus Essex County residents on food stamps as of June 2017 — 5,000 in the South Ward alone.

The SNAP card will become a payment option on Oct. 5 during the hospital's weekly farmer's market inside the main lobby.

The Beth Greenhouse (Newark Beth Israel Medical Center)

The market is already a weekly feature, but it currently accepts only cash and credit.

The fruits and vegetables for sale are sourced from the hospital's very own hydroponic farm — The Beth Greenhouse — located about a block away from hospital grounds. The greenhouse opened in May 2016 as part of the hospital's quest to "create wellness" in the community, according to Darrell Terry, president and CEO of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Children's Hospital of New Jersey.

The greenhouse is currently growing kale, string beans, strawberries, zucchini, cucumbers, basil, parsley, romaine lettuce, spring mix lettuce and tomatoes.

"The prices at the farmer's market are significantly lower than what you would find in most retail establishments," Terry said. "We're not trying to make any money off of this."

Proceeds from sales are reinvested in programming for health and wellness activities in the community, the hospital said.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.