Governor Murphy Commits Over $5.5m to Strengthen Food Access in Atlantic City
Governor Phil Murphy announced that the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) will commit over $5.5 million in funding to support a multi-faceted approach to immediately expand access to fresh, healthy grocery shopping options for Atlantic City residents. Out of 50 Food Desert Communities (FDCs) in the state, Atlantic City is the second-highest-ranked, demonstrating a significant need for interventions designed to reduce rates of food insecurity. The suite of programs that will be launched by the NJEDA will increase affordable access to produce and healthy food options, ensuring more residents of Atlantic City can purchase groceries right in their community.
“Every New Jerseyan deserves equitable access to affordable groceries regardless of their zip code,” said Governor Murphy. “The funding announced today will support several innovative programs that will alleviate the pressure on countless Atlantic City residents who travel miles out of their community to buy the groceries they need for their families. My administration continues to be committed to expanding access to fresh and healthy foods in Atlantic City and across the state.”
In 2022, the NJEDA designated 50 FDCs across New Jersey. The Atlantic City/Ventnor FDC, comprised of 41,000 residents, is ranked second-highest in the state based on its food desert factor score, a measure of acuity of need. Atlantic City has been without a full-service supermarket for nearly two decades. The programs announced today will serve as pilot programs, which could be expanded to other FDCs throughout the state.
“Through my Nurture NJ initiative, New Jersey is working hard to strengthen underserved communities so that every child has a supportive and healthy environment to grow up in,” said First Lady Tammy Murphy. “I am excited that a portion of today’s funding will allow the Department of Health to expand their Healthy Corner Store Initiative in Atlantic City. The initiative has already brought healthy food and beverage choices to communities across the state and this additional funding will allow hardworking families struggling to make ends meet access the groceries they need to feed their households.”
The NJEDA will sponsor initiatives led by two major healthcare systems in South Jersey to expand mobile and community-based food retail options, bringing fresh and affordable foods directly into Atlantic City communities. AtlantiCare is a South Jersey-based healthcare system which has long been addressing food insecurity by operating the Pantry in the Plex in Midtown from which it serves hundreds of local families on a weekly basis. With this sponsorship, AtlantiCare is able to further expand its food programming to include a retail mobile grocery. AtlantiCare will implement a multi-pronged approach including a weekly market and educational event featuring health education, incentives for purchasing healthy items, cooking demonstrations and classes, and assistance with online ordering. Combined, these efforts will support access to healthy food as well as teach community members about meal planning, preparation, and more.
Governor Murphy Announces Selection of Jennifer Sellitti as New Jersey's Next Public Defender
Governor Phil Murphy announced that he has selected Jennifer Sellitti to become New Jersey’s next Public Defender. Sellitti will succeed Public Defender Joe Krakora upon his retirement on January 31. Her nomination will also be submitted to the Senate for a full five-year term.
“With over two decades of experience as a public defender and 17 years working within the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, including in leadership roles, Jennifer Sellitti is ideally suited to be New Jersey’s next Public Defender,” said Governor Murphy. “Jennifer’s efforts to ensure all defendants have effective legal representation have earned wide respect throughout our legal community. I look forward to working with Jennifer to continue our administration’s work to make New Jersey’s criminal justice system fairer and more equitable.”
“I am grateful to Joe Krakora for his service as New Jersey’s Public Defender since 2011,” Governor Murphy continued. “Together we have taken steps towards building one of the most progressive criminal justice systems in the nation, including victories such as eliminating fees for public defender services in New Jersey. I wish him nothing but the best in his retirement.”
The Office of the Public Defender (OPD), led by the Public Defender, provides the constitutional right to an attorney for indigent residents seeking criminal defense. The Public Defender also formulates overall policy and directs administration of all programs. Additionally, the Public Defender, along with Assistant Public Defenders, coordinates and oversees the work of the trial regions, appellate offices, and special units across the state. Public Defenders are appointed to a five-year term by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate.
“I am incredibly grateful to Governor Murphy for nominating me to lead the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender into the future,” said Jennifer Sellitti. “It has been my privilege to work alongside the dedicated attorneys, investigators, and support staff of this office for much of my career. I look forward to leveraging our agency experience and talent to move in a more holistic direction and to broaden community engagement to put and keep clients at the center of all we do."
Sellitti currently serves as the Director of OPD where she assists the Public Defender on special projects, leads several statewide initiatives, manages training programs for staff and pool attorneys, and represents clients in criminal cases. She joined the OPD in November 2006 as an Assistant Deputy Public Defender in the Essex County Adult Region. There, she represented adult clients charged with crimes before the New Jersey Superior Court and maintained caseload that included homicide cases and other serious felonies. She was later promoted to Deputy Public Defender in the Middlesex Trial Region, where she managed a regional office of 20 attorneys, 8 investigators, and 10 support staff, and represented adult and juvenile defendants in Middlesex County.
Governor Murphy Announces New Policy to Promote State Employees' Responsible Use of Generative Artificial Intelligence
Following his recent creation of an Artificial Intelligence Task Force, Governor Phil Murphy announced a new policy to guide State employees to responsibly use generative AI to improve how government delivers services to New Jersey residents.
“New Jersey’s public sector professionals are absolutely essential to ensuring that the Garden State leads the nation as the best place in this country to live, work, and raise a family,” said Governor Murphy. “We must continue to invest in our public sector workforce and equip them with the tools, skills, and knowledge to deliver best-in-class services to our residents, businesses, and institutions. Providing this guidance is just the first step to empowering our public workers to leverage innovative technologies like artificial intelligence by ensuring that our public professionals can use these powerful tools responsibly and confidently.”
In conjunction with the policy’s release, the State’s Office of Innovation, in collaboration with InnovateUS, produced an explainer video to help New Jersey’s public sector professionals better understand how generative AI can be responsibly incorporated into their day-to-day work.
The explainer video is the first offering to be followed by more extensive training for New Jersey’s State workforce about the development, use, and risks of AI. The additional training is slated to launch next year, with the New Jersey Office of Innovation collaborating with InnovateUS to launch a free, at-your-own pace AI training program and live workshops targeted to State workers.
The Governor’s recent executive order (EO 346), which established the Task Force, also directed the State’s Office of Information Technology to develop policies to govern and facilitate use of artificial intelligence technologies by Executive Branch departments and agencies. The policy announced today fulfills this aspect of the executive order and will provide the foundation for future policies developed in consultation with industry, academic, and government experts to reflect the latest technological developments.
The new policy focuses on empowering State government employees to use generative artificial intelligence tools, while ensuring that use of the tools is appropriately disclosed and transparent, that all outputs are independently fact-checked, and that no confidential or protected information or data is shared or otherwise disclosed.
Office of the Secretary of Higher Education Launches BasicNeeds.NJ.gov Resource Hub at Convening of Campus Practitioners
Understanding that non-tuition costs like food, child care, and housing can impact the well-being and success of college students, the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) held a statewide convening on Friday to highlight efforts to address basic needs insecurity among New Jersey’s diverse student populations and launched a free online navigation tool that will connect college students with a wide spectrum of basic needs resources. BasicNeeds.NJ.gov – designed in collaboration with the Office of Innovation – centralizes information relevant to students regarding housing, food, transportation, child care, and other similar supports, while providing an overview of eligibility and the processes for seeking State assistance.
This work is part of the Murphy Administration’s ongoing efforts to help New Jerseyans successfully complete a college education and to make progress toward the statewide goal of ensuring 65 percent of New Jerseyans hold a high-quality credential by 2025.
“As my Administration continues to work toward making higher education more affordable and accessible throughout our state, we recognize that success depends on what happens both in and out of the classroom,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “Today’s students come from all different backgrounds and face any number of challenges in their day-to-day life beyond their ongoing studies. We must take a whole-of-government approach to supporting New Jersey students and understanding their unique challenges to help ensure their postsecondary success.”
The day-long event at Kean University convened a dynamic set of speakers and stakeholders, including prominent national researcher Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and Complete College America, to inform and enhance basic needs programming for postsecondary students in New Jersey. Over 170 people attended, representing a combination of campus practitioners, students, community organizations, state agencies and policymakers.
“Supporting students' basic needs security is not only the right thing to do, but it is also vital to ensuring that colleges and universities can fulfill their missions to help students achieve their academic goals,” said Dr. Brian K. Bridges, New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education. “In today's landscape, students grapple with unprecedented challenges and enhancing opportunities for communication between researchers, policymakers and practitioners is critical. This collaborative approach empowers us to innovate and formulate lasting solutions, focused on equitable support for all students.”
BasicNeeds.NJ.gov is part of the broader Resident Experience Initiative (“ResX”) — funded by the federal American Rescue Plan — to streamline, simplify, and improve how New Jersey delivers benefits and services to residents.