You may still have the power to get your own town included on a list of communities that will eventually share up to $240 million over the next six years in food security funding.

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority on Tuesday released its draft list of the 50 communities it considers to be the "food deserts" most in need of financial help.

Once the list is finalized, the designated communities will be able to take advantage of funding through the Food Desert Relief Act, part of the Economic Recovery Act signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in January 2021.

"We have taken a very broad approach to defining what a food desert means," said Tara Colton, executive vice president for economic security at NJEDA. "The traditional definition at the federal level is quite rigid and it's not really suitable for New Jersey, particularly because of how dense a state we are and how reliant we are on public transit."

Availability of a nearby supermarket is important, Colton noted, but it isn't the only factor used to compile this initial list. Metrics used include income, poverty level, health attributes, crime rate, and walkability.

NJEDA's list includes at least one community in every New Jersey county. Population sizes in the listed communities range from just above 1,000 to approximately 50,000.

Certain municipalities, such as Newark, take up more than one spot on the list because of their size and population.

Public feedback on the draft list will be accepted through early February. Concerned residents, business owners, advocates and stakeholders can use this form to offer input. Also, NJEDA is hosting online listening sessions on Jan. 12 and Jan. 13 to collect feedback.

Proposed food desert community list (ranked by EDA in order of calculated need)

* indicates the entire municipality is being proposed

1. North, Central and South Camden/Woodlynne (Camden)
Atlantic City/Ventnor (Atlantic)
Newark South (Essex)
Newark West (Essex)
Paterson South (Passaic)
Camden East/Pennsauken (Camden)
Newark East (Essex)
Newark North and Central (Essex)
Passaic City (Passaic)
Salem City* (Salem)
Paterson North (Passaic)
Bridgeton/Fairfield Twp/Lawrence Twp* (Cumberland)
New Brunswick City (Middlesex)
Trenton City (Mercer)
Elizabeth East (Union)
Asbury Park City (Monmouth)
Jersey City South (Hudson)
Penns Grove*/Carneys Point* (Salem)
Perth Amboy City (Middlesex)
Irvington Township (Essex)
Elizabeth West (Union)
Union City (Hudson)
Lindenwold/Clementon* (Camden)
Lakewood North (Ocean)
Pleasantville/Absecon (Atlantic)
Red Bank Borough (Monmouth)
East Orange City (Essex)
Orange/West Orange/Montclair (Essex)
North Bergen/West New York/Guttenberg (Hudson)
Long Branch City (Monmouth)
Jersey City North (Hudson)
Jersey City Central (Hudson)
Woodbine Borough* (Cape May)
Millville/Commercial Twp* (Cumberland)
Keansburg Borough* (Monmouth )
Prospect Park/Haledon/Hawthorne (Passaic)
Paulsboro Borough (Gloucester)
Lakewood South (Ocean)
Fairview Borough (Bergen)
Linden/Roselle (Union)
Egg Harbor City* (Atlantic)
Burlington City (Burlington)
Vineland City (Cumberland)
Plainfield City (Union)
Phillipsburg Town (Warren)
Bayonne City (Hudson)
Dover Town (Morris)
Bound Brook Borough (Somerset)
High Bridge Borough (Hunterdon)
Montague Township* (Sussex)

The draft designations were developed in partnership with the Department of Community Affairs and the Department of Agriculture, with input from the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health.

"We have an obligation as state leaders, and as human beings, to ensure that no New Jerseyan goes to bed hungry, regardless of their socioeconomic status," said Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver. "By crafting one of the most comprehensive food desert designations in the country, we are leading the nation in taking necessary steps to eradicate food deserts and remove the barriers keeping our state's residents from accessing nutritious food."

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at

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