New Jersey Democrats: Liquor Sales Will Help Low Income Residents Eat Healthier in State’s “Food Deserts”

How much I have. Depressed poor man raising a bottle of beer while looking how much is left

TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey Republicans are blaming state Democrats for the poor eating habits of residents living in low income areas, referred to as “Food Deserts”.   Democrats wanted to spice up the deal for supermarkets to invest in low-income communities by packaging a free liquor license as an incentive to supermarket chains who wanted to re-enter those markets.

A “Food Desert Elimination Act” proposed by Democrats Craig J. Coughlin, Patricia Jones and Raj Mukherji uses the lure of alcohol to get low income residents in the Garden State into healthier eating habits.

Democrats want to bring healthy eating habits to those less fortunate, and agree, that the sale of alcohol and liquor will entice shoppers to buy healthier food.

What exactly is a food desert?

 The Legislature finds and declares that: (1) there are certain urban areas of the State, known as “food desert” communities, in which residents are unable to obtain reasonable and adequate access to nutritious foods and, in particular, to fresh fruits and vegetables; (2) the inaccessibility of nutritious food in urban food desert communities has been attributed, in large part, to the absence of supermarkets and grocery stores in those communities; (3) low-income families are more likely than others to live in urban food desert communities and to lack the transportation or financial resources necessary to reach distant wholesome markets; and (4) the establishment of financial incentives to supermarkets and grocery stores is a reasonable means by which to ensure that residents of urban food desert communities in the State are provided with reasonable access to nutritious, fresh, and delicious produce, and are afforded the opportunity thereby to make healthier eating choices for themselves and for their families,” Democrats say.

Don’t believe this?  You can read the bill right here on the New Jersey Assembly web page.

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What have we learned today?  New Jersey has food deserts.  Selling alcohol will help those undernourished low-income residents lead a healthier and happier life.



In a Press Release issued by the GOP:

Assemblyman Ryan Peters advocated for giving direct help and education to people without convenient access to grocery stores, but his effort to improve conditions was shot-down by the Democrats, who gave no reason for their denial.

“We are providing more than enough incentives for supermarkets to establish their business in food deserts,” Peters (R-Burlington) said on the Assembly floor. “However, while this bill is well intentioned, studies show that eating habits are not improved simply by providing access to grocery stores.  Rather, education and affordability are the key drivers to improving eating habits.”

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There are at least five studies that have found no connection between access to grocery stores and healthier diets, including a study done this year by the National Bureau of Economic Research.  The study did, however, note that supplemental nutrition assistance program subsidies could better increase consumption of healthy foods.“This bill is largely a futile effort, and I tried putting forth solutions that are backed-up by evidence.  Putting grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods will not change diets, and studies back that up,” said Peters.  “We need to make healthy food more affordable and requiring grocery stores to accept food vouchers will help achieve that goal.  Taking the next step means working with food banks, soup kitchens and non-profits to educate people on healthy eating and how it will improve their life.”
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The bill Peters tried to amend would give liquor licenses to grocery stores that open in low-income neighborhoods, an attempt to incentivize grocery stores to open in those areas and encourage people to buy healthy food.  There is no stated premise or evidence that giving grocery stores liquor licenses would make a difference.

A study by Health Affairs of a program that opened a grocery store in an area of Philadelphia considered a “food desert” found that the new market only made residents aware that more food was accessible; it had no effect on diets or health.

“Government cannot micromanage what people like to eat,” said Peters.

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