Nonprofit Works to Combat Food Deserts in Northern NJ

City Green provides access to affordable local produce while educating the communities it serves. 

People shopping for produce at an outdoor market
City Green sells its produce to local communities in need. Photo: Courtesy of City Green

City Green, a nonprofit that builds community and provides access to local produce, has been committed to growing healthy cities for nearly two decades. 

It began as a community garden, started by a women’s Bible study group in Paterson, and has blossomed into a large-scale operation that includes 100 school gardens throughout nine counties, 75 community gardens in Passaic County, and six therapeutic gardens. City Green has operations in Paterson and Mt. Olive, as well as its Clifton headquarters. At all of these locations, City Green strives to build community while providing access to nature and healthy food.

Jennifer Papa, City Green’s founder and executive director, says the community takes the lead on everything, from the educational programs and workshops available to the types of produce that are grown. From eggplant to okra, cabbage and potatoes, Papa says it’s important to provide ingredients for meals that remind New Jersey’s diverse communities of home. 

“They’ve been informing us of what they want to eat, and that’s what we grow,” she says. 

The food is distributed to local supermarkets and City Green’s farm stands, which run from June through November, largely operated by seasonal employees, volunteers and high school interns.

City Green’s work directly combats food deserts throughout northern New Jersey. With the help of its Veggie Mobile, City Green brings fresh produce to local communities. Papa says people shouldn’t have to take three buses out of the city to find fresh produce at full-service supermarkets.

City Green is committed to making healthy food affordable and accessible to everyone. City Green accepts federal food benefits at its farm stands.

“You don’t fill up a family on just arugula and carrots,” Papa says. 

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