Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop elaborated on the city’s vertical farming program, the first of its kind in the nation and the fourth overall across the globe, during an interview this afternoon.
“The last couple of months have highlighted that diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease make people more at risk and that’s more prevalent in communities that have less access to healthy food,” Fulop said.
“So we though running large-scale program that incorporates education and diet, which a lot of people don’t know about, with access to food that can hopefully change habits.”
The city will be joining forces with AeroFarms, a Newark-based vertical farming facility, to help make the effort successful.
“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,” stated AeroFarms CEO David Rosenberg.
Yesterday, the city announcing that there would be 10 farms throughout the city, which are estimated to produce 19,000 pounds of produce a year.
This afternoon, the mayor indicated that two of the locations will be within the Jersey City Public Schools, with the specifics to be determined at a later date, one at Marion Gardens, along with City Hall and the Bethune Center. The remaining locations are still pending.
In addition to the partnership with AeroFarms and the Health and Human Services Department overseeing the program, the World Economic Forum – who describes themselves as “an organization for public-private cooperation” – will also be a key component of the operation.
“We know diet is a key predictor of life expectancy and the Coronavirus has made clear the huge inequities on food access and food education that exists in different communities,” HHS Director Stacey Flanagan said in a statement.
“ … 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,” added Head of the Healthy Cities and Communities initiative at the WEF Mayuri Ghosh.
Some residents had questioned what the healthy eating workshops and health-monitoring component of the program would entail and Fulop elaborated today when asked about the particulars.
“It’s not new to have an education component with a city program … just recently, around a similar healthy food initiative – healthy food classes around supermarket shopping. And subsequent to that, we gave vouchers to have people shop with information that they just learned,” he explained.
“It’s important to change habits and incentivize people to do that and at the same time, give them mechanisms to track the progress. So we’re thankful for Quest Diagnostics, which is one of the largest labs in the world on this front and they’re going to help us track and of course keep patient confidentiality.”
Quest Diagnostics is a Fortune 500 company, specifically a clinical laboratory, with their corporate headquarters based out of Secaucus.