In 2021, Interfaith Neighbors, leading a multi-disciplinary collaborative representing Asbury Park, was selected to participate in the Building Healthier More Equitable Communities (BHEC) program by the Reinvestment Fund, funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, along with three other New Jersey cities, including Paterson, Camden and Newark.
One of the main initiatives of Building Healthier More Equitable Communities here in Asbury Park is called Community Food Connection. This entirely community leader driven coalition connects the Asbury Park area food pantries and other community spaces with each other, in order to share resources and have a bigger impact on eliminating nutritional insecurity.
The Community Food Connection has partnered with a fifth generation New Jersey farm, Fernbrook Farms, to connect 300 families with a consistent supply of local, naturally-grown, fresh seasonal produce this growing season.
In addition to this work, BHEC has collaborated with Asbury Park-based Fresh Markets, to kick off another new initiative, SNAP with Asbury Fresh. Beginning May 8th, 2022, from 10 AM to 2 PM and continuing every Sunday until the end of November, community members can utilize their SNAP benefits (Food Stamps) at the Asbury Fresh Kennedy Park farmers’ market to purchase farm-fresh produce, meat, eggs, certain baked goods and value-added produce (sauerkraut, pickles, etc). In addition, everyone paying with SNAP will get to double their benefits—thanks to the NJ Good Food Buck Program—which can then be used to purchase more fresh produce. So, swipe your card for $10, and receive $20 in tokens. This public, private, nonprofit collaboration is the first of its kind in Monmouth County, but we hope to see more in the coming years.
These two food justice initiatives will help bring health and equity to our area.
Also important is access to affordable and fair housing and access to free early childhood education. Interfaith Neighbors has aligned with some of our BHEC community organizations (New Jersey Natural Gas, Asbury Park Housing Authority, and Coastal Habitat of Monmouth County) to form an affordable housing think tank. Our purpose is to study any local or state regulations that create barriers to access affordable housing in Asbury Park and work together for change.
Other initiatives include food justice workshops in collaboration with our BHEC partner, the Boys and Girls Club of Monmouth County, at their Asbury Park facility, a Plant-Powered Women’s Coalition, that meets monthly at Kula Farm, collaborating with Garden State Equality’s Asbury Park Healing Together on workshops to help prevent adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), connecting families in the obesity prevention program at the Jane H. Booker Family Health Center to the Community Food Connection movement, and creative whole food, plant-based lifestyle cooking demos and mentorship at the Rebirth Church and the Asbury Park Mayor’s Wellness Committee Fitness Saturday events.
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