The power of partnership is proving to be a key factor in building success for Healthier Somerset’s ShapingNJ projects to combat obesity and associated diseases and promote healthier lifestyles.
We chose farmers’ markets in our three target communities of Bound Brook, Manville, and Somerville as vehicles to promote affordable, healthy choices for local produce. We are coordinating with downtown management associations, vendors, and municipal departments that coordinate the markets to accept vouchers to purchase healthy items at the markets, and we are looking into avenues of distribution for the vouchers.
We’ve made great progress in scheduling our nutrition seminars. In Bound Brook, we’re collaborating with the borough’s Recreation Department to host one seminar and a local school may host an additional workshop. In Manville we’ll hold the seminar at the public library, and in Somerville at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church.
The seminars will demonstrate how easy and inexpensive it can be to make smoothies and salads. Zufall Health Centers and EmPoWER identified a nutritionist from NJ SNAP who will present the seminars at no charge.
We’ve had opportunities to create new partnerships throughout this process. The Somerset County Food Bank Network donated 150 thermal lunch bags that we will give to our seminar attendees. The bags were donated to the Food Bank Network by Sanofi, the global pharmaceutical company that is headquartered in Somerset County.
The second part of our project focuses on adoption of the “Complete Streets” policy in the three towns to encourage safe and accessible accommodations for all users of existing and future pedestrian, bicycle, and transit facilities. Creating sound public policy is never easy, and municipal departments and elected bodies don’t always make decisions with the speed or predictability that we would like to see. Our previous policy outreach through Healthier Somerset and RideWiseTMA has established relationships with local governing officials and staff who have brought in additional municipal departments and entities involved in the decision to adopt a “Complete Streets” resolution. We’re glad that we can be part of the education process on the benefits of “Complete Streets”, and we’re optimistic about moving the policy forward in our three towns.