Dr. Leeja Carter Innovates With Smart Refrigerator To Tackle Food Deserts Across New Jersey

by Gee NY

Dr. Leeja Carter, renowned for her research in Black women’s health, has pioneered a revolutionary solution to address food insecurity in New Jersey’s underserved communities.

Departing from her academic career amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Carter founded the Coalition for Food and Health Equity (CFHE) in 2020, catalyzing impactful initiatives like the Hudson County Hunger Project and the Eating Better Together program.

Driven by a commitment to provide equitable access to nutritious food options, Carter’s CFHE has launched the Ujamaa Cafe, a smart refrigerator program strategically placed in food deserts.

These refrigerators, stocked with locally sourced, health-conscious products, aim to combat the limited access to fresh foods within these communities.

“The Ujamaa Cafe is my passion project,” Carter explained. “It not only addresses immediate hunger needs but also supports local food entrepreneurs and wholesalers, diversifying the charitable food market.”

The refrigerators, currently deployed across New Jersey and at locations like the Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia, utilize advanced technology to monitor usage, track inventory trends, and optimize restocking schedules to minimize waste.

In addition to providing essential nutrition, the Ujamaa Cafe at schools like Marion P. Thomas Charter Schools and the Newark School of Data Science and Information Technology integrates educational components.

The Sankofa Youth Incubator Program offers students opportunities to develop food products from concept to market, fostering entrepreneurship and sustainability awareness.

“For us, sustainability means not only nourishing bodies but also empowering future generations in food science and security,” Carter said.

Through these innovative approaches, Carter and CFHE are reshaping the landscape of food accessibility, demonstrating the transformative potential of community-driven solutions to combat food deserts nationwide.

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