In continuing his effort to promote healthy food alternatives in underserved New Jersey communities, today U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) announced the release of a new report issued by the New Jersey Healthy Corner Store Task Force entitled Supporting Healthy Corner Store Development in New Jersey, which lays out a series of recommendations to increase the distribution, promotion and sale of healthy products in New Jersey corner stores.
“The Healthy Corner Store Initiative and the members of the New Jersey Healthy Corner Store Task Force have made incredible strides in their work to bring access to nutritious foods to every New Jerseyan,” said Sen. Booker, who served as a participant in the Task Force. “Countless studies have demonstrated that lack of access to nutritious food—particularly severe in underserved communities—manifests itself in all areas of human development, from increased rates of diet-related diseases to reduced academic performance. The importance of the Initiative cannot be overemphasized.”
Made up of nearly 40 leaders from the health, financial, philanthropic, government, business, distribution and retail sectors, the New Jersey Healthy Corner Store Task Force was formed in 2014 by the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids, The Food Trust and the American Heart Association to explore barriers to offering healthy foods in corner stores located in neighborhoods that lack access to nutritious foods.
Recommendations in the report include the development of a database tracking healthy food inventory and other key measures, exploring health care partnerships for creating community-clinical linkages with New Jersey hospitals, state and local health departments, health insurers and corner stores, and strengthening wholesaler and manufacturer partnerships to address distribution challenges faced by corner stores to stock fresh, healthy inventory.
"Every community and every child deserves to have convenient access to healthy, affordable food," said Yael Lehmann, Executive Director at The Food Trust. "We look forward to supporting the expansion of healthy corner stores across New Jersey, and are so grateful to our hardworking, committed partners in this effort.”
Studies suggest that the disproportionately high incidences of diet-related disease among minority populations can be attributed in part to unequal access to healthy foods. Diabetes incidence is highest among Native Americans, at 15.9%, followed by 13.2% for African-Americans, 12.8% for Hispanics, 9.0% for Asians, and 7.6% for whites. As of 2012, 38.9% of United States adults were obese, with the highest rate among African Americans at 47.9%, followed by Hispanics at 42.5%, whites at 32.6%, and Asians at 10.8%.
As part of his ongoing efforts to improve health outcomes in underserved communities, last year Sen. Booker reintroduced legislation aimed at reducing disparities in healthcare among disadvantaged groups. The Reducing Disparities Using Care Models and Education (ReDUCE) Act requires the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct research to determine the causes of health disparities and to identify successful methods that are being used to help eliminate them. The bill then targets federal funds to implement strategies successful in reducing health disparities.
"This taskforce report is addressing inequities in food access that exist in many of our communities, similar to the ReDUCE Act, which would provide resources to uncover the root causes of disparities that leads to inequities,” said Dr. Darrin Anderson, Associate Executive Director, NJ YMCA State Alliance.