ASBURY PARK – The Community Food Connection, a public collaborative, is working to end the city's food apartheid with "A Summer of Food Justice."
The initiative comes after a February New Jersey Economic Development Authority report ranked the city among its top 20 worst food desert communities across the state.
Derek Minno-Bloom, Trinity Church Asbury Park’s food and social justice director, said the group has adopted the term food apartheid, as other organizations have, instead of using food desert "because a desert is a natural thing," but food apartheid means "systemically designed to not have food."
Led by Karyn Moskowitz,, Interfaith Neighbors’ Building a Healthier More Equitable Community coordinator, local organizations are coming together for the Summer of Food Justice to ensure New Jersey-grown, fresh and affordable, or free, produce will flow into underserved neighborhoods.
Moskowitz told the Asbury Park Press that she asked Minno-Bloom how she could add to the food justice movement in Asbury Park.
"Meaning the movement to get healthy, fresh food to people who otherwise can't afford it, can't access it.… He said work through the food pantries and pull them all together into a coalition and get them talking, then the ideas will start flowing, and that is what I did," Moskowitz said.
The initiative will continue through late November, which is the end of the state’s growing season. Families will have access to free produce in the Asbury Park and Red Bank areas every day of the week, except Mondays.
"We will have enough for 300 families to get four items a week, worth about $75,000," Moskowitz said.
All the produce is grown by Fernbrook Farms in Chesterfield, a fifth-generation farm that is known for naturally grown produce, environmental education center, plant nursery and historic inn.
Theodore "Farmer Ted" Huggins said their goal is to connect to those 300 families weekly so they can enjoy at least four varieties of seasonal fresh produce.
"Everyone deserves good food. My whole intent is to feed people, to make sure people have access to healthy nutritional produce," Huggins said.
The initiative also is trying to put dignity into the free food distribution system.
"They want to set (the fresh produce) out and make it look beautiful like you have the dignity of feeling like you're at a farmer's market, but its free... and we have signs that say what it is, its organic, where it came from, the name of the farm and the city, etc," Moskowitz said.
The Summer of Food Justice initiative also features partnerships with City Green and the Asbury Fresh Farmers Market.
Asbury Fresh has received USDA approval to accept SNAP/Food Stamps/EBT at its market, running 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. City Green has supplied a grant that doubles all purchases through its NJ Good Food Bucks initiative. For example, SNAP participants who swipe for $20 will receive $40 in tokens to spend on fresh food at the market.
Program partners include Sustainable Jersey, which helps municipalities get certified as “food secure,” among other metrics and the Asbury Park Green Team, which leads and coordinates the global sustainability movement on a local level to ensure a sustainable future for the city and its community.
Lunch Break, Brookdale Community College, Monmouth University, NJ Shore Food Not Bombs, and Community Affairs Resource Center will offer free local produce in their food pantries. Asbury Park Food Collective, a MOGO Korean Fusion initiative, is providing in-kind cold storage space for the group.
“Funding support was raised by Interfaith Neighbors via Hackensack Meridian Health, BHEC, and other independent donors,” Moskowitz said. “Each Community Food Connection member committed their own resources and time to this movement, but more is needed.”
Current program participants
On Tuesdays: People’s Pantry on Pine Street, KYDS on Springwood Avenue, and St. Vincent de Paul on Springwood Avenue in Asbury Park.
On Wednesdays: Bradley Food Pantry on Fourth Avenue in Bradley Breach, and the Boys & Girls Club on Monroe Avenue in Asbury Park.
On Thursdays: Mercy Center on Main Street in Asbury Park.
On Fridays: Jewish Family and Children's Services on Summerfield Avenue in Asbury Park, and the Asbury Park Senior Center.
On Saturdays: MacroBites on Springwood Avenue and United Fellowship Baptist Church on Third Avenue in Asbury Park.
On Sundays: St. Augustine on Atlantic and Prospect avenues, and The Rebirth Church on Dewitt Avenue in Asbury Park.
On Mondays through Saturdays: Lunch Break on Dr. James Parker Blvd. in Red Bank.
For more information, residents can visit Interfaith Neighbors or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Daye is the metro reporter for Asbury Park and Neptune, with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. @CharlesDayeAPP Contact him: CDaye@gannettnj.com
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Asbury Park NJ fresh produce program to end food apartheid