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The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) board of directors on Friday approved a $2 million grant program that will provide funding to organizations to purchase meals from restaurants that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and distribute the meals at no cost to New Jersey residents.

The “Sustain and Serve NJ” program builds on prior NJEDA initiatives supporting restaurants impacted by COVID-19, including $35 million in targeted grant funding for restaurants the Authority made available through Phase 3 of the Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program. More information about Sustain and Serve NJ and complete eligibility requirements for potential applicants are available at

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating impacts on all of our lives, but restaurant owners and their employees have been hit particularly hard,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “Sustain and Serve NJ is an innovative solution that will provide much-needed relief to our restaurant sector while also providing free meals to New Jersey residents. This is crucial to ensuring New Jersey’s communities and economy withstand the pandemic and are in a strong position to recover.”

Restaurants have been hit harder by the pandemic than almost any other industry. According to the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association’s most recent estimates, as many as 30% of New Jersey restaurants are at risk of permanent closure and the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) reports that more than 134,000 restaurant employees have filed unemployment insurance claims.

The Sustain and Serve NJ Grant Program approved today will make up to $2 million of funding from the NJEDA Economic Recovery Fund available to organizations working to bolster the strength of New Jersey’s restaurants. Eligible organizations can receive grants of at least $100,000 for prospective bulk purchases of meals from New Jersey-based restaurants.

The program will be open to entities, including 501(c) nonprofit organizations, that are legally registered to do business in New Jersey and are in good standing with the state Department of Labor and the New Jersey Division of Taxation. Restaurants may not directly apply for this grant.

Grant applicants will be required to demonstrate prior bulk purchases of 3,000 or more meals valued at $50,000 or more from New Jersey-based restaurants between March 9, 2020 and the date of application launch. The NJEDA will not provide reimbursements for meals purchased prior to the program launch. Grantees cannot resell any meals purchased with grant funding.

Applicants will also need to identify the restaurant or restaurants from which they will be purchasing meals. To receive funding, the partner restaurants must have 50 or fewer employees; maintain a physical commercial location in New Jersey; be legally registered to do business in New Jersey and in good standing with the state Department of Labor, state Division of Taxation, and (where applicable) the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control; and possess valid certification from municipal or county government inspection showing a current rating of Satisfactory per the New Jersey Retail Food Establishment Rating system. Restaurants will also have to certify that they were in operation on Feb. 15, 2020, and detail how their business has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grant funding awarded through the Sustain and Serve NJ Program will be restricted to expenses related to the direct cost of purchasing meals, as determined by the grantee’s restaurant partner or partners. This cost may include the restaurant’s cost of food and ingredients, labor, packaging, facilities, and profit margin. Sales tax and gratuity cannot be paid for using grant funds. While the restaurant may charge any amount, the award amount will be capped at $10 per meal. No other expense incurred by the grantee, whether in support of the meal purchase from the restaurant or otherwise, is eligible. Grant funding can only be used to support expenses incurred before or on April 30, 2021.

Applications for Sustain and Serve NJ will be available soon.

In addition to Sustain and Serve NJ, the NJEDA administers a variety of grant, low-cost financing, and technical assistance programs for small and mid-sized businesses impacted by COVID-19, including $35 million of targeted grant funding for restaurants through Phase 3 of the Authority’s Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant Program. Comprehensive information about these programs and other state support for businesses impacted by the pandemic is available at