Mayor Steven M. Fulop announced today a new partnership between AeroFarms, the world leader in vertical farming, and the Jersey City Housing Authority (JCHA) with a resolution going before the Jersey City Municipal Council this week to provide free, nutritious food to residents most in need by opening two vertical farming locations within public houses sites – Curries Woods and Marion Gardens.
The public housing farming locations, which will be funded by the City, will greatly increase healthy food access where needed most while also encouraging our most vulnerable residents to pursue a healthier lifestyle.
The Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), AeroFarms, and Jersey City Housing Authority will also collaborate with the Boys & Girls Club and Head Start Early Childhood Learning programs located onsite at both locations to support produce distribution and healthy eating education.
The resolution will be voted on by the City Council on Wednesday, February 24th.
“We’ve worked hard to keep the Vertical Farming Program a priority despite the impacts from this pandemic which have disproportionately affected the more economically challenged areas and exacerbated societal issues such as healthy food access,” Mayor Fulop said. “We’re taking an innovative approach to a systemic issue that has plagued urban areas for far too long by taking matters into our own hands to provide thousands of pounds of locally-grown, nutritious foods that will help close the hunger gap and will have an immeasurable impact on the overall health of our community for years to come.”
AeroFarms will construct and maintain the farming sites – the first of which will be built at the Curries Woods Community Resource Center.
The Boys & Girls Club and Head Start, both located within the JCHA sites, will integrate the vertical farm as a learning tool for youth within their educational programming. The Head Start (operated by Greater Bergen Community Action) also plans to integrate the greens into its early childhood meals.
A JCHA-Aerofarms Advisory Committee will also be formed to provide strategic oversight and guidance throughout the program, which has never been done before on a municipal level. The steering committee will include Jersey City residents and stakeholders from the two involved nonprofits, the Boys & Girls Club and Head Start.
The City’s Vertical Farming Program will consist of 8 additional vertical farms throughout Jersey City to be located in senior centers, schools, public housing complexes, and municipal buildings.
The 10 total sites will grow 19,000 pounds of vegetables annually using water mist and minimal electricity. The food will be free to the public, the only commitment is that residents participate in 5 healthy eating workshops, and beyond that, they will have the option of accessing quarterly health screening.
“As a Certified B Corporation, we applaud Mayor Fulop’s leadership and advocacy to bring healthier food options closer to the community, and we are excited to launch together the nation’s first municipal vertical farming program that will have far lasting positive impact for multiple generations to come,” David Rosenberg, Co-Founder and CEO of AeroFarms, said.
The City’s Health and Human Service Department will run the program with a health-monitoring component to track participants’ progress under a greener diet in the areas of blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. Crops will be integrated with other Healthy Food Access initiatives, including senior meal programs.
“Access to healthy food and proper nutrition is directly linked to a person’s mental and physical health, and can decrease risks of chronic diseases while increasing life expectancy,” Stacey Flanagan, the Director of Health and Human Service for Jersey City, said. “This past year has shed light on the health disparities that exist in urban areas nationwide, which is why we’ve remained focused on closing gaps where healthy food access is most needed, specifically for our low-income, youth, and senior populations.”
The Vertical Farming Program is part of the broader initiative from the World Economic Forum (WEF) towards partnerships with cities. Jersey City is the first in the world to be selected by WEF to launch the Healthy City 2030 initiative, which aims to catalyze new ecosystems that will enable socially vibrant and health-centric cities and communities.
The vertical farming initiative with AeroFarms and the World Economic Forum is the latest and broadest effort Jersey City has launched around food access, including more than 5,000 food market tours for seniors to educate on healthy eating, and the “Healthy Corner Store” initiative.
“We are thrilled that the vertical farms that will be installed at JCHA sites to enable some of our most vulnerable residents, including low-income households, children and seniors, to have access to fresh, green produce that is nutritious, delicious, and easy to prepare,” Vivian Brady-Phillips, Director of the JCHA, said.