Ready, Set, Go – Beating Obesity in Somerset County!

As we neared the end of our ShapingNJ grant period, just one item remained unchecked on our project list. Two of our three target communities – Bound Brook and Manville – had adopted Complete Streets, and we were pleased to learn that Somerville, the last of our target communities, had placed it on the agenda for their September 8 council meeting. With Healthier Somerset representatives in the audience, the resolution passed and Somerville became the eighth municipality in Somerset County to adopt a Complete Streets resolution. Over one third of Somerset County municipalities are now on board with a commitment to make our roads safer for all those who use them.

When we started our project, we knew that we needed policy change to create an environment that would support healthier lifestyles.  We learned that implementing change takes time, patience, perseverance, and collaboration.

Our Results

We also learned that partnerships not only make the workload easier, they also improve the final product. All of the partners who participated contributed ideas and energy that changed our perspective and helped us meet our objectives in ways that we had not imagined almost a year ago, when we prepared our grant application.

Here’s what we all achieved by working together:

  • “Complete Streets” policies passed in 3 targeted municipalities
  • 16 bicycle racks purchased and distributed in targeted municipalities
  • 300 vouchers distributed for purchase of fresh fruit and vegetables in local farmers  markets
  • 6 nutrition seminars presented; attended by 125 children and adults
  • 140 bus tickets given out for free rides on Somerset County public buses
  • Increased partnerships among county agencies

As we close the chapter on this grant, we would like to recognize all our partners and thank them for their support and contributions:

  • EmPoWER Somerset
  • Morris-Somerset Regional Chronic Disease Coalition
  • NJ SNAP-Ed
  • RideWise TMA
  • RWJUH Somerset
  • Sanofi US
  • Somerset County Food Bank Network
  • Somerset County Health Officers Association
  • Zufall Health Center

Bike Racks and Healthy Food Will Improve Community Health in Somerset County

Healthier Somerset presented the last of its nutrition seminars last week. Children and adults of all ages attended the Bound Brook session, which featured fun and informative games about nutritious foods, smoothie and salad demonstrations and sampling, and information about public transportation options.

EmPoWER Somerset and Zufall Health Centers partnered with NJ SNAP-Ed to plan and implement the seminars.  RideWise TMA presented the transportation information and provided bus tickets purchased with ShapingNJ grant funds.

Our Complete Streets component is moving along nicely. Bound Brook, the most recent of the three boroughs to adopt the program, will install its just-delivered bike racks shortly.

We think the bike racks look like little robots!

More good news — Manville has adopted a “Complete Streets” policy! They will receive their bike racks soon.

We’re now at 7 municipalities (one-third of Somerset County) that have passed a resolution of support for the program.  Our final ShapingNJ grant partner, Somerville, will vote on a Complete Streets resolution at its meeting on Tuesday, September 8.  We’ll be there to support passage of the resolution!

Launching Healthier Somerset’s Nutrition Seminars!

Summer is here, and the Healthier Somerset ShapingNJ team is harvesting the fruit that’s grown from the seeds sown during the months of planning!  We have presented three nutrition seminars, and the remaining two are scheduled for July 16 and July 20.

EmPoWER Somerset and Zufall Health Centers partnered with NJ SNAP to plan and implement the seminars, which focused on summer salad and smoothie recipes.






These photos are from our second nutrition seminar, held June 25 at the Ben Maggio Center in Bound Brook. Nineteen adults and six children attended. We distributed 16 farmer’s market vouchers, one for each of the family units present. The seminar was so well received that the Center invited us to come back and do an additional presentation there.

Along the way, we’ve become more efficient at preparing for and presenting the programs. Since all of the food used is fresh, shopping and food prep must be done only hours before the program is presented. Since the food is perishable, it must be consumed or distributed, rather than kept for the next program.

We’ve also been able to tie the nutrition and transportation components together nicely.  At the end of the nutrition component of the seminar, our partner from RideWise gave a short presentation about the county buses and transportation in the area. RideWise distributed a bus ticket to each family unit, and we hope to purchase more tickets with remaining ShapingNJ grant funds to distribute at the remaining seminars.

More good news is that the borough of Bound Brook has adopted a “Complete Streets” policy!  This makes them the sixth Somerset County municipality to pass a resolution of support for the program, and the 119th municipality/county to pass a resolution in New Jersey. They will now receive bike racks, which we hope to have installed by the end of August. Hopefully this will encourage our two remaining municipalities to take similar action!

Launching Healthier Somerset’s Nutrition Seminars!

After months of planning, Healthier Somerset is just a few weeks away from launching the nutrition seminars that are a key focus of our ShapingNJ grant activities.

EmPoWER Somerset and Zufall Health Centers have partnered with NJ SNAP to plan and implement the seminars, which will focus on summer salad and smoothie recipes. Our seminars begin in Somerville on June 23.

Here is a complete schedule and listing of locations:

  • June 23 Emmanuel Church, Somerville 12:00 – 1:00 pm
    (Spanish translator present)
  • June 25 Ben Maggio Center, Bound Brook 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
    (Spanish translator present)
    Click here for more information:   Nutrition Workshop Flyer
  • June 30 Emmanuel Church, Somerville 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
  • July 16 Manville Library, Manville 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
  • July 20 Manville Library, Manville 11:00 am – 12:00 noon

EmPoWER Somerset has designed vouchers for distribution to attendees at the seminars.  The vouchers are good for $15 toward the purchase of fruits, vegetables, and eggs at four vendors in farmers markets in our three target communities of Bound Brook, Manville, and Somerville.  The vouchers are printed in a bilingual version (English and Spanish, and a total of 400 will be distributed.  We are grateful to our participating farmers: Country Stand Farm, Norz Hill Farm, Malanga Farms, and Whistling Wolf Farm.

  farmers market organic signfarmers market stand1

Conducting the seminars and distributing the vouchers fulfills a major piece of our proposal.  We’ve learned along the way that communication and cooperation have been essential to achieving our goals, as well as flexibility and ingenuity when the original plans sometimes have to be adapted.

The second part of our project – adoption of the “Complete Streets” policy in our three target communities – is proving to be more challenging.  “Complete Streets” has been a primary policy objective of Healthier Somerset since 2010.  In all, five Somerset County municipalities have adopted “Complete Streets,” with the most recent municipality (Far Hills Borough) signing on after attending a Healthier Somerset policy seminar.

One of our three communities is preparing to vote on a resolution of support, and another has formed an advisory committee to study the issue.  We are still conducting outreach and information activities in the remaining town, and hopefully we will see progress there soon.

Healthier Somerset Welcomes Spring!

Spring is finally here, and it’s perfectly timed as we move forward on our ShapingNJ projects to get people walking, biking and eating healthy!  Our program will encourage three towns – Bound Brook, Manville, and Somerville – to adopt “Complete Streets” and make their towns safer and friendlier for everyone who is on their streets and roads.

While the residents and visitors to these towns are out and about, we hope they’ll visit the local farmers’ market. We know that farmers’ markets are a great source for locally-grown, healthy produce, but people without access to private transportation may have a hard time getting to them. They can also be expensive.

Our campaign will include providing vouchers to the underserved to purchase healthy items at the farmers’ markets; nutrition workshops targeted to specific market segments; health fairs to kick off each farmers’ market opening with family activities and nutrition information; and brochures that offer targeted nutrition information (English and Spanish).  EmPoWER Somerset and Zufall Health will develop the workshops and brochures and use their experience to support the individuals and organizations who manage the markets, since they are usually not health professionals.  RideWise TMA is taking the lead on moving the adoption of  “Complete Streets. forward”

We’re partnering with the local elected officials and Boards of Health in our three towns to get both of these projects underway.  Our partners in the grant are meeting with additional partners as well, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Somerset County Food Bank Network, and the Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

We could not accomplish our goals without support from our key partners:

  • EmPoWER Somerset:  EmPoWER Somerset assists individuals and families in making positive lifestyle choices and fosters healthy, drug free communities through education, collaboration, and linkages to resources.
  • RideWise TMA RideWise is one of New Jersey’s eight designated transportation management associations (TMA). The agency’s mission is to develop sustainable travel alternatives that help to improve mobility, reduce traffic and decrease carbon emissions.  A key goal of RideWise is to promote efficient transportation through carpools, vanpools, shuttle services, bicycling and walking.  Where transportation infrastructure is designed to accommodate or even encourage non-motorized transportation, such as through Complete Streets policies, it can have a positive effect on public health.  Complete streets and land use strategies that consider health can help increase physical activity, improve accessibility and safety, and ease congestion and air pollution.
  • Zufall Health:  Zufall Health is the medical and dental home for the underserved with sites in north, west, and central New Jersey.  A fully licensed, Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), Zufall Health provides high-quality, affordable, compassionate medical and dental care to patients in Dover, Morristown, Hackettstown, Flemington, Somerville, West Orange, and on its Highlands Health Van.
  • Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset is a 965-bed academic medical center with campuses in New Brunswick and Somerville.  It is the core hospital of the Robert Wood Johnson Health System; the principal teaching hospital for Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; the flagship hospital for Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey; and New Jersey’s only pediatric academic health campus.  RWJ Somerset is the convener of Healthier Somerset.
  • Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission (MBRHC) provides public health services to five towns in Somerset County:  Bound Brook, Green Brook, South Bound Brook, Warren, and Watchung.  Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission (MBRHC) has provided residents and business owners with quality public health services for over 40 years. With a Vision of Healthy People and Places..A Healthy Community, their mission is to improve the health of our community and environment through the use of prevention services, health promotion and protection strategies. This is achieved through the use of preventive services, health promotion and protection strategies, and inspection and enforcement activities.
  • Somerset County Department of HealthSomerset County Department of Health (SCDOH) is the flagship Health Department serving Somerset County. SCDOH is the largest health department, and the umbrella public health agency for specialized technical and professional public health services throughout Somerset County.  Somerset County Department of Health is the Contracting Health Agency for Bedminster, Far Hills, Franklin Township, Manville, North Plainfield, Raritan, Rocky Hill, and Somerville.