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!


Creating Partnerships to Build Success

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.

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.

The snow is finally melting…can spring be very far behind?

As residents step outside after the long winter, Healthier Somerset is working with the communities of Bound Brook, Manville and Somerville to welcome Complete Streets – a project designed to enable safe street access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities.   Complete Streets makes it easier and safer to cross the street, walk to shops and bicycle to work.

We chose to focus on “Complete Streets” because it has been a primary policy objective of Healthier Somerset since its inception in 2010. Through outreach to municipal and county officials, we have already created public and governmental awareness of the positive impact the program has on our community’s health and well-being.

All three of the selected municipalities are small walkable and bikeable communities that lend themselves to this program. They are geographically contiguous and all promote livability and ease of transportation within their municipalities. Additionally, 2 of the 3 (Bound Brook and Somerville) are located on the Raritan Valley New Jersey Transit Line and have gained Transit Oriented Development (TOD) status from New Jersey Department of Transportation, which is fostering development and walkable communities in municipalities with these designations.

This is why we need bike racks.

One of the great resources in our towns is the convenience of local farmers markets.  Farmers markets are a natural tie-in to our “Complete Streets” transportation project. Getting to the farmers  market by walking or biking is a healthy activity, and those who purchase goods at the farmers market can exercise healthier eating habits.  All of these activities promote healthier lifestyles and combat obesity.

As part of our program, we plan to purchase bike racks for these towns and to provide vouchers to low-income and underserved segments of our community for use at the farmers markets. Throughout the project, we will measure the number of people who attend farmers markets, the number of vouchers distributed and redeemed, the number of bike racks installed, and the number of towns that pass resolutions of support for “Complete Streets.”


Healthier Somerset Awarded ShapingNJ Healthy Community Grant

Printable Download

Healthier Somerset Awarded ShapingNJ Healthy Community Grant

Somerville, NJ – February 3, 2015 – Healthier Somerset has been selected by the New Jersey Department of Health to participate in the ShapingNJ Healthy Community Grants Initiative 2015 and has been awarded a $12,000 grant.  ShapingNJ is a public/private partnership for nutrition, physical activity and obesity prevention.

Healthier Somerset will focus on the expansion of Complete Streets, a program to provide safe access for all roadway users, and increased access to farmers’ markets in Bound Brook, Manville, and Somerville.  Healthier Somerset partner agencies EmPoWER Somerset, RideWise TMA, RWJUH Somerset, Somerset County Health Officers Association, and Zufall Health Center will direct the program.

 “Preventing obesity has been a major focus of Healthier Somerset since the coalition was formed in 2010,” said Serena Collado, Director of Community Health at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset and Healthier Somerset convenor.  “These programs combat obesity and associated diseases and promote active and healthy lifestyles.”

“We are pleased to provide grant funding to support these efforts,” said Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd, M.P. H.  “We know that sustainable change happens at the local level. Over the past four years of this initiative we have seen promising policy and environmental changes in our communities as a result of rich partnerships, ongoing technical assistance and participation in a learning collaborative.  Communities are learning from one another’s successes and challenges as we continue efforts to reduce obesity and promote a culture of wellness in New Jersey.”

Somerset County has been named the second healthiest county in New Jersey in the 2014 county health rankings.  Healthier Somerset, a coalition formed to improve the health and well-being of everyone who lives and works in Somerset County, promotes healthy lifestyles through collaboration among its partners. The coalition’s strategic goals are to engage Somerset County in active participation in good health habits, increase access to choices that promote healthy lifestyles, and promote policy changes that improve health. For more information about Healthier Somerset, visit

Press Release Download