The Jersey City Housing Authority is preparing to launch the nation’s first municipal vertical farming program in an effort to provide free, nutritious food to vulnerable communities. The Vertical Farming Program will consist of ten vertical farms throughout Jersey City.
The Housing Authority is working in collaboration with AeroFarms and the World Economic Forum, which selected Jersey City as its first municipal partner in the Healthy Cities and Communities 2030 Initiative. The first farms will open within Curries Woods Community Resource Center and Marion Gardens, two multifamily public housing sites.
When complete, the farms are projected to yield 19,000 pounds of vegetables annually. All produce will be available at no cost to residents and distribution will be folded into ongoing food access initiatives and senior meal programs. According to city officials, the only requirement for residents is participation in five healthy eating workshops.
“We’ve worked hard to keep the Vertical Farming Program a priority despite the impacts from this pandemic, which have disproportionately affected the more economically challenged areas and exacerbated societal issues such as healthy food access,” said Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. “We’re taking an innovative approach to a systemic issue that has plagued urban areas for far too long by taking matters into our own hands to provide thousands of pounds of locally grown, nutritious foods that will help close the hunger gap and will have an immeasurable impact on the overall health of our community for years to come.”
Additional city agencies include the Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services, the Boys & Girls Club, and Head Start Early Childhood Learning, which will help coordinate produce distribution and healthy eating education. A special advisory committee will provide strategic oversight and guidance throughout the program.
The city’s Health and Human Services Department will run the program with a health-monitoring component to track participants’ progress under a greener diet in the areas of blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity.
The City Council voted to approve a resolution granting a three-year contract with AeroFarms. The program will cost Jersey City around $1 million, which will fund maintenance and construction that is now underway.