JERSEY CITY, NJ - The City of Jersey City will be moving forward with its first in the nation municipal vertical farming program. The program is in conjunction with AeroFarms, the world leader in vertical farming, and the World Economic Forum (WEF) who recently selected Jersey City as one four cities to be their first partners in the Healthy Cities and Communities 2030 Initiatives.
Moscow, Mumbai, Austin, were also selected as part of the initiative, which will target measurable changes to the health of each community.
“As we work through our municipal budget that has been decimated due to the coronavirus pandemic, we are making choices on what programs to keep.” said Mayor Steven Fulop. “It is clear that the virus has had a disproportionate impact on people with pre-existing heart conditions, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes which is directly linked to a person’s diet, and as a result we feel it is more important than ever to focus on food access and education.”
With more than 6,000 positive cases and over 400 deaths from COVID-19, Jersey City has been particularly hard hit by the respiratory ailment.
“We know diet is a key predictor of life expectancy and the coronavirus has made clear the huge inequities in food access and food education that exist in different communities” said Stacey Flanagan, Jersey City’s Director of Health and Human Services.
The Vertical Farming Program will consist of 10 vertical farms throughout Jersey City located in senior centers, schools, public housing complexes, and municipal buildings. The 10 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 requirement being that residents participate in healthy eating workshops and agree to quarterly health screenings.
Set to be run by Flanagan’s department, the program will include a health-monitoring component to track participants’ progress eating a greener diet, including in blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. Crops will be integrated with other Healthy Food Access initiatives including senior meal programs.
“The Healthy Cities and Communities initiative is a flagship effort of the World Economic Forum. In collaboration with both private-public sector stakeholders, the initiative aims to catalyze new ecosystems that will enable socially vibrant and health and well-being centric cities and communities,” said Mayuri Ghosh, Head of the Healthy Cities and Communities initiative at the World Economic Forum.
“The Mayor and I were both selected as Young Global Leaders by the World Economic Forum and while we have known each other for years I’m excited to work with Jersey City in this formal capacity,” said David Rosenberg CEO of AeroFarms. “Societies’ structural food problems have become more clear with COVID-19. The world needs more distributed, localized food production systems. We also need new ways to get healthy food to our most disadvantaged members of society. I am honored to work to work with Mayor Fulop and the people of Jersey City to find better solutions.”
The vertical farming program is the latest and broadest initiative Jersey City has launched around food access, with previous efforts including more than 5,000 food market tours for seniors to educate on healthy eating and the grant program on the “Healthy Corner Store” initiative.
“This partnership will allow us to provide thousands of pounds of locally-grown, nutritious foods that will help close the hunger gap and have an immeasurable impact on the overall health of our community,” Mayor Fulop said.
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