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Greek CommunityHackensack Meridian Health Receives $3 Million Grant to Make Fresh Produce More...

Hackensack Meridian Health Receives $3 Million Grant to Make Fresh Produce More Accessible to Families in Need

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Health system is launching the Fresh Match program this fall and partnering with grocery retailers to make fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible to low income families

October 12, 2023 — Edison, NJ — Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive health system, is launching a new program called Fresh Match this fall that will make fresh produce more accessible to families in need. On October 11, Hackensack Meridian Health CEO Robert C. Garrett joined New Jersey Department of Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez, grocery retailers, regional fruit and vegetable producers, and community partners at the Raritan Bay Area YMCA in Perth Amboy to celebrate the health system receiving a $3 million grant from the State of New Jersey. The health system is partnering with grocery retailers in seven counties to expand the New Jersey’s Nutrition Incentive Program.

“Hackensack Meridian Health is dedicated to collaborating with community partners to build healthier communities, and this grant will help us reach more people where they live and shop,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, CEO, Hackensack Meridian Health. “By expanding programs like the state’s Nutrition Incentive Program, we are providing a more holistic and equitable approach to health that will improve outcomes.”

According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 Americans are eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, with even greater disparities among low income Americans. Cost is one of the primary barriers to consuming these healthy foods for families in need.

“Food and nutrition security is a basic and essential human need,” said New Jersey Department of Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman. “Expanding access to fresh, healthy foods will better power our state’s greatest asset: our people. We have partnered with Legislative leadership to expand the Minimum Benefit Program for SNAP recipients, and Governor Murphy’s Administration and NJ Human Services are proud to support innovative programs like this through the state budget.”

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Under the Fresh Match program, families receiving New Jersey’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can go into a participating grocery store and receive a dollar-for-dollar match to buy fresh produce. For example, if an individual using their SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card buys $10 or less worth of fruits and vegetables at a participating grocery store, they will receive a dollar for dollar match for up to $10 toward buying more fresh produce during their next visit. Hackensack Meridian Health will be partnering with grocery stores and community partners to reach SNAP households in areas that face food insecurity.

“Innovative programs like this will be instrumental in our efforts to ensure access to healthy food in every community,” said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. “This is a perfect demonstration of what we can accomplish when the state works with healthcare providers and local businesses to find solutions. We increased resources for SNAP and grants like this to alleviate hunger and food insecurity. I’m so pleased to see Hackensack Meridian Health establish this program so quickly.”

The grant is from the State of New Jersey, which aims to increase food and nutrition security among low income communities while also providing a boost to local economies. The funding is enabling Hackensack Meridian Health to develop and launch Fresh Match, providing financial incentives to families in need to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables. New Jersey legislators were instrumental in helping to secure the grant.

“Income should not be a barrier to accessing the proven benefits of a fruit and vegetable rich diet,” said Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez. “And thanks to the Fresh Match program we will be able to ensure that families have the financial support they need to make the right choices at the grocery store. By addressing the financial obstacles associated with nutrition security, we will be able to improve the overall health of the community and hopefully positively influence better health behaviors.”

According to the USDA, prices for fresh fruits and vegetables have increased, making this program even more critical for low income families.

“Your zip code should not determine your access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The Fresh Match program by Hackensack Meridian Health proves that when we collaborate together we can produce viable solutions for all Communities,” said Assemblywoman Linda Carter.

Hackensack Meridian Health’s food and nutrition program is part of the network’s groundbreaking social determinants of health program, Healthy Connections. Addressing social determinants of health is not only important for improving overall health, but also for reducing health disparities that are often rooted in social and economic disadvantages. Research shows that health outcomes are driven by many factors beyond healthcare, including socio-economic factors, health behaviors and underlying genetics.

“Hackensack Meridian Health is committed to reducing social vulnerability in the community and that begins with working on community issues, like food accessibility, beyond the four walls of our hospitals,” said Nicole Harris-Hollingsworth, EdD, MCHES, vice president of Social Determinants of Health at Hackensack Meridian Health. “The Fresh Match program is part of our work to improve health and nutrition in the communities we serve by making fresh produce more accessible to residents in need.”

“Today, we celebrate a fresh start for Perth Amboy families who rely on SNAP benefits. Thanks to the Fresh Match program, our local grocery retailers are closer partners in providing healthier choices. It’s about more than just fresh produce; it’s about health, hope, and a brighter future within reach for our SNAP families,” said Mayor Helmin J. Caba, City of Perth Amboy. “We’re grateful to Hackensack Meridian Health for their dedication to our residents’ well-being, bridging the gap between health and hardship to ensure every family in Perth Amboy can taste the promise of a healthier future.”

Fresh Match will be rolling out to 13 grocery stores across seven counties in New Jersey throughout the fall. The participating grocery stores include:

ShopRite of Watchung

ShopRite of South Plainfield

ShopRite of Perth Amboy

ShopRite of Lodi

ShopRite of Passaic

ShopRite of Hackensack

ShopRite of Shrewsbury

ShopRite of Carteret

ShopRite of Bricktown

ShopRite of Neptune

Supremo of Plainfield

Supremo of Perth Amboy

C-Town of Perth Amboy

For more information about SNAP, visit NJSNAP.gov.

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ABOUT HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH

Hackensack Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit health care organization that is the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care. The network has 18 hospitals and more than 500 patient care locations, which include ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, lifesaving air medical transportation, rehabilitation centers, urgent care centers, physician practice locations, and a fitness and wellness center. With more than 35,000 team members and 7,000 physicians, Hackensack Meridian Health is a distinguished leader in health care philanthropy and committed to the health and well-being of communities throughout New Jersey.

The network’s notable distinctions include having the only #1 ranked adult and children’s hospitals in New Jersey, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, 2023-24. Hackensack University Medical Center is nationally-ranked by U.S. News & World Report in six specialties. To learn more, visit www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org.

SOURCE; HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH

The copyrights for these articles are owned by the Hellenic News of America. They may not be redistributed without the permission of the owner. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hellenic News of America and its representatives.

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