Jersey City is set to launch a vertical farming program that will bring 19,000 pounds of fresh produce to residents every year - free of charge - transforming areas of the city that traditionally lack healthy food sources. Mayor Steve Fulop announced a partnership with AeroFarms, a New Jersey vertical farming company, and the World Economic Forum, that will make Jersey City the first in the nation to create a municipal vertical farming program. The initiative will establish 10 farming sites throughout the city. 

ulop said the program will help reshape the diets of people living in areas with higher rates of obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure - some of the same health conditions that have left many susceptible to COVID-19. “It is going to be oriented towards diet, healthy eating and making people more aware of what they are putting into their body,” Fulop said. “We are going to be hopefully changing outcomes of how people eat and live which ultimately changes life expectancy.” Residents will register with the city and may be required to participate in health food workshops, as well as quarterly health screenings to receive free access to the locally-grown produce. 

The program comes as the city grapples with a $70 million budget shortfall caused by the coronavirus. But as one of the cities hit hardest by COVID-19 — Jersey City is nearing 6,500 positive cases and 500 fatalities — “we feel it is more important than ever to focus on food access and education,” Fulop said. The City Council will vote Wednesday on a resolution granting a three-year contract with AeroFarms, which grows primarily leafy greens, including kale and arugula, for nearly $1 million. A little more than half of the money will fund the construction of the vertical farm units and the rest of the money will cover maintenance of the project. 

Read more at The Jersey Journal (Joshua Rosario)