In 2012, the New Jersey Food Access Initiative (NJFAI) provided financing to support the construction of a 79,000-square-foot retail center in Vineland, New Jersey, anchored by a Bottino’s ShopRite supermarket.
Investors in the NJFAI include Living Cities, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and Reinvestment Fund. The retail center includes a Federally Qualified Health Center and three other retail spaces. The financing enabled Bottino’s to relocate its existing local supermarket without having to leave the area altogether. The new site is located in a USDA-designated food desert and borders two large Limited Supermarket Access areas.
The larger, improved facility retained 135 jobs as well as created an additional 75 new jobs. The developer partnered with the Cumberland Salem Workforce Investment Board to recruit for these 75 new jobs, 50% of which went to residents from the surrounding community. The store is located in a census tract with an unemployment rate of 12.5% (ACS 2006 – 2010).
Reinvestment Fund is one of three Community Development Entities (CDEs) that provided New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) allocations for this million project. Reinvestment Fund provided $9.2 million in NMTC financing as well as $2 million from federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative funds and $2.5 million from RWJF through the New Jersey Food Access Initiative. In addition to construction, the financing also supported the purchase and installation of equipment for the supermarket tenant.
As the nation’s largest philanthropic organization devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, RWJF works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. Headquartered in Princeton, the RWJF invested $12 million in NJFAI to help ensure that all New Jersey families have access to affordable healthy foods. This investment complements the work of community coalitions funded by RWJF that are working in Vineland and elsewhere in NJ to combat childhood obesity as part of the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids (NJPHK). Located in a severely distressed area, Bottino’s ShopRite is provides additional services to the surrounding low-income community including participation in Special Supplemental Nutrition Programs such as electronic food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) assistance programs.
The Bottino’s ShopRite is located in the historic main street of the City of Vineland. A portion of the project site operated as a salvage yard from 1940 to 2004 and City officials were desirous of removing this use from a prime commercial corridor that is considered the gateway to the historic downtown area. The city acquired the property in 2005. The property had significant environmental hazards located on it and was remediated with funds supplied by the State of New Jersey. This area is part of the NJ Urban Enterprise Zone and has also been designated as a “Redevelopment Area” by the City of Vineland.
The health center in Bottino’s is a Rite Care operated by CompleteCare, an FQHC. Locating health centers in supermarkets can create a base from which to offer assistance with healthy shopping and an opportunity to teach patients to prepare healthy meals. What’s more, this location meets people where they are while offering care that is easy to access, available evenings and weekends, and doesn’t require an appointment. The clinic sees primarily patients who are farm workers with incomes at or below 200% of federal poverty guidelines. Pioneering in this field, the ShopRite is also working with the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program (YDPP). YDPP is a year-long program with 16 weekly sessions followed by 8 monthly sessions. In a relaxed classroom setting, a trained Lifestyle Coach helps participants learn skills that will help them incorporate healthy eating, increasing physical activity, and other behavior changes into their everyday lives. Reinvestment Fund directed grant dollars from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support this initiative.