Imagine if you lived in a part of the Garden State where you couldn’t get fresh fruits or vegetables. It might surprise you to learn some New Jerseyans are struggling with this problem right now.

Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, D-Burlington, is pushing a plan to establish a two-year “food desert” pilot program that would make fresh fruits and vegetable available to residents.

The plan will allow a vendor to come into towns that have no supermarkets and provide produce at a low cost.

Murphy noted in some urban as well as rural areas there aren’t any supermarkets or produce markets, and if residents don’t have a vehicle, they may be unable to get fruits and vegetables with any regularity.

“If our children can’t have healthy foods, they’re not getting a good education, they’re not able to concentrate in school," she said.

Her legislation directs the state Department of Agriculture to create a program that would establish year-round weekly produce markets in three food desert communities located in different parts of the state for two years.

The specific areas where the markets would be located have not been established yet.

The measure stipulates these markets would be required to offer reduced prices for food, and venders would accept cash, credit and debit cards, and food vouchers.

In addition, the markets would provide recipes using the produce they sell, as well as offer storage guidelines detailing how to keep produce fresh.

She said providers would work with nearby community organizations and public schools to operate the markets and also help residents “learn how to start growing their own vegetables and fruit."

Murphy said her legislation was modeled after the Produce in a SNAP program that offers low-cost produce in food deserts in and around Baltimore.

The measure has been passed by the Assembly and now awaits action in the state Senate.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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