Eat More Fruits and Vegetables — It Matters

Rebecca Perkins
August 28, 2017

With Labor Day only days away, we’ve reached the unofficial end of summer, but that doesn’t mean that all good summer things must end. If you’ve taken advantage of the fresh vegetables and fruit available these past few months, you’ve probably noticed that you feel better and you may have dropped some pounds.

You can stay on track by continuing to add fruits and vegetables to your diet even as the seasons change.

And even if you didn’t keep to a healthy diet as much as you’d hoped, September is a good time to change that. Whether you’re planning school lunches or looking for healthier choices in your own meals, you can make a major impact by increasing the fruits and vegetables you eat every day.

READ:More life tips you can use from Healthier Somerset

STAYING HEALTHY: Finding power with produce

READ:The 2017 Jersey Fresh season, where and when

If you need help in this, you’re not alone. More than 90 percent of children and adults don’t get the daily recommended amount of either fruits or vegetables. That’s why September is “Fruits and Veggies — More Matters” Month.

There’s a direct link between the failure to eat enough of these healthy foods and the obesity epidemic in our country. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the percentage of children with obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. Today, about one in five school-aged children (ages 6 to 19) has obesity.

The childhood obesity epidemic is so severe that for the first time in two centuries, the current generation of children in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents.

It’s happening everywhere

The lack of fruits and vegetables in daily diets is often linked to a lack of access, but this is not always the case.

In Somerset County, the third wealthiest county in New Jersey, 4.5 percent of respondents to the 2015 Somerset County community health assessment survey indicated that, in an average day, they eat no servings of green or orange vegetables. In fact, the percent of individuals consuming no vegetable servings increased from 2006 to 2011, and then again to 2015.

The link to obesity is also visible here in Somerset County, with 54.7 percent of respondents to the survey reporting that they were either overweight or obese.

Here are some suggestions to help add fruits and vegetables to your diet:

  • Fill half your plate with fruit and vegetables at every eating opportunity — including snacks.
  • Remember that ALL forms of fruits and vegetables, including fresh, canned, frozen, dried, and 100 percent juice, help you meet your goal.
  • Explore Somerset County’s farmers markets (most are open through September), roadside stands, organic farms, and even the produce sections of most supermarkets for an abundance of choices. And remember that farmers markets are all around the region, so if you work in another county or are on a weekend trip, consider a local farmers market as one of your destinations.
  • Sneak extra servings into your regular diet by adding fruit to your cereal or oatmeal, or more vegetables onto your pizza.

Spending 15 minutes in an Internet search will produce dozens of recipes, menus, and good ideas to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. More does matter!

Visit for more information, and like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at #HealthierSCNJ.

Rebecca Perkins is the project manager for Healthier Somerset.

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Bound Brook Food Pantry Benefits From Partnership

Joanne Vuoso
August 20, 2017

BOUND BROOK – The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office is pleased to be part of a collaborative effort with Healthier Somerset and Duke Farms in Hillsborough to deliver fresh produce to the Bound Brook Salvation Army Food Pantry.

The need to increase fresh produce in local food banks and pantries was identified by Healthier Somerset, a coalition that works to improve the health of Somerset County residents and employees, in their Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). Through a New Jersey Healthy Initiatives grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Healthier Somerset is working to create a culture of health in Bound Brook and South Bound Brook.  #NJHIAddressingBarriers


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Green Brook Farmers Market — Every Tuesday

2017 Green Brook Farmers Market Calendar

Tuesdays from June 13 – September 12, 2017
3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

111 Greenbrook Road
(across Town Hall and the Fire House)

Join us for fun with farmers, vendors and entertainment.


June 13 – Opening Day!  Entertainment: Kenny Cunningham (Acoustic Guitar)
June 20 – Strawberry Jam Contest
June 27 – Entertainment: Seth Choynake (Acoustic), Green Brook Fire/EMS – Touch a Truck Night, Special Vendor: Rubia Imports (Olive Oils, Vinegars)

July 11 – Entertainment: Seth Choynake (Acoustic), Special Vendor: Rubia Imports (Olive Oils, Vinegars)
July 18 – Blueberry Muffin Baking Contest, Lion’s Club Eyeglass Collection Night
July 25 – Beatlesmania! Entertainment: Kenny Cunningham (Acoustic Guitar)

August 1 – Peach Pie Baking Contest( National Night Out to follow at GBMS, 6pm-9pm)
August 8 – Entertainment TBD
August 15 – TomatoFest! & Salsa Contest; NJ Blood Services Donation Night
August 22 – Entertainment: Kenny Cunningham (Acoustic Guitar)
August 29 – Entertainment TBD

September 5 – Entertainment TBD
September 12 – Entertainment: Moggy Hill (Bluegrass and Acoustic Music)

(calendar as of 5/31/17, subject to change)

See the Township website for vendor info at:

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Farmers Markets in Somerset County Now Open

Community Farmers Markets
Seasonal tailgate markets where New Jersey farmers sell the produce and other agricultural products they grow.

Roadside Markets
Retail establishments dedicated to selling New Jersey produce and other local products during the Garden State’s growing season.

Pick Your Own Farms
Farms that welcome customers onto their farm to pick the produce they plan to purchase.

Learn more at:

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Bridgewater Farmers Market

Sundays from June 25 – October 29, 2017
11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Download registration packet to participate as a vendor.

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Healthier Somerset Celebrates Employee Wellness Month

Rebecca Perkins, Healthier Somerset
May 29, 2017

If you’re reading this column at home before going to work, or if you’re already on the job, your health may not be your primary focus in the day ahead, but what happens in your workplace can have a huge impact on your health.

June is National Employee Wellness Month, which was created to highlight the benefits to employers and employees when companies create a culture of health.

Successful employee health programs offer a variety of options that are tailored to their employees’ needs and lifestyles. Employers who embrace the concept understand that wellness programs can reduce employee sick days, increase productivity, and ultimately lower long-term healthcare costs. Employees experience all the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, including reduced stress and anxiety.

Many employee wellness programs are designed and run by one or two individuals in an office who take the initiative to get things moving. Initial steps may include adding healthy vending machine choices in the snack room, installing bike racks for employees who wish to bike to work, and forming walking groups at lunch. Employers may provide financial incentives, including gym memberships, extra vacation days, and reduced insurance co-pays.

Here are some easy and inexpensive ways to promote good health at work:

  • Host a potluck lunch with healthy dishes and exchange the recipes
  • Celebrate birthdays with non-food events, or, if you don’t want to give up all the fun, designate one day each month to bring in the donuts or cake.
  • Create a health and wellness area to post flyers of upcoming events and share books and dvd’s on health
  • Everybody likes a competition — create a challenge for most steps walked in a week, most pounds lost in a month, most hours working out, etc.

Healthier Somerset’s Worksite Wellness Committee will celebrate Employee Wellness Month with the second Healthy Workplace Recognition Awards breakfast on Tuesday, June 6, at Raritan Valley Country Club. The awards recognize employers who demonstrate their commitment to a healthier worksite by implementing worksite wellness programs that improve the health and well-being of their employees. Recipients earn a bronze, silver, or gold designation in the small, medium, and large company category based on the length of their program and the number of activities provided.

Sixteen Somerset County employers will be recognized at the breakfast, and Hans Jurgen Jung, VP, head of Nestlé product Development Center, Nestlé Health Science, will present keynote remarks. Nestlé Health Science, a business that develops nutrition-based therapies, recently completed its move to an 80,000-square-foot R&D facility at the Center of Excellence campus on Route 202/206 in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

Online registration for the breakfast is available at Breakfast sponsors are Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset (Awards Sponsor) and Somerset County Business Partnership (Silver).

Visit for more information, and like on Facebook and follow on Twitter at #HealthierSCNJ.
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Green Brook Seniors Receive Fresh Fruit and Vegetables at Nutrition Event

Rebecca Perkins
December 2, 2016

Healthier Somerset, through the New Jersey Healthy Communities Network, hosted “FIVE A DAY:  THE IMPORTANCE OF EATING FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES,” for the Green Brook Seniors Club on Tuesday, November 15. Twenty-three seniors attended the presentation by Joanne Gordon, PD, Clinical Dietician, Registered Dietician, Food and Nutrition Services at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset.

Each attendee received a bag of in-season fruit and vegetables.  The groceries were purchased with the NJHCN grant money from Malanga Farms in Warren, New Jersey.  Thirty bags were purchased, and the remaining bags were raffled at the Green Brook Seniors Thanksgiving Day party.

Joanne Gordon, the dietitian who presented the program, awarded prizes of pedometers and books to attendees who answered nutrition questions correctly. The prizes were provided by RWJUH Somerset. Evaluations from attendees showed that the presentation was well-received.

Planning has begun for farmers markets to be held next year in Green Brook and Bridgewater, the two municipalities in our grant that did not host farmers markets this year.  (North Plainfield, the remaining municipality, has a farmers market in place). By working with municipal officials and local health officers, we believe that we are creating a sustainable framework that will keep the farmers markets in place after this grant is ended.

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Healthier Somerset — Taking Stock as Year One Draws to a Close

Rebecca Perkins
November 14, 2016

It’s hard to believe that we are almost through Year One of Healthier Somerset’s New Jersey Healthy Communities Network grant. Our grant activities are expanding Complete Streets in Somerset County and promoting healthy eating through nutrition education and access to healthy foods in Bridgewater, Green Brook, and North Plainfield. Since this grant built upon our 2015 ShapingNJ grant that focused on similar activities, we were aware of the challenges and opportunities involved in making this project successful.

Our success in seeing Complete Streets resolutions passed in our 3 targeted municipalities in 2015 has been helpful in encouraging more towns to adopt Complete Streets. However, each municipality is unique, and since Complete Streets can represent a major policy change, each municipal council brings their own views and issues to the table.

Similarly, our farmers market initiative has required more intensive planning than the previous year’s project because two of our three targeted municipalities don’t have existing farmers markets. All three of our towns last year had farmers markets when we began the grant activity.

In spite of these challenges, Healthier Somerset, working with our partners, has accomplished these Year One goals:

Complete Streets:  North Plainfield is the first of our three targeted municipalities to adopt a Complete Streets policy.  Somerset County also adopted a Complete Streets policy this year and hosted a “Complete Streets” seminar for municipal officials to encourage passage throughout the county.  Healthier Somerset gave a presentation at the seminar on health and policy benefits of Complete Streets.

Farmers Markets and Nutritional Seminars:  We held 4 educational seminars on nutrition (5 A Day) in North Plainfield at these locations:  St. Vincent DePaul Pantry, North Plainfield Board of Social Services, North Plainfield Public Library and the North Plainfield Farmer’s Market.  We distributed 100 vouchers for use at the farmers market to underserved North Plainfield residents.  They also received reusable bags with the Healthier Somerset logo.

Even though Bridgewater and Green Brook do not have farmers markets, we held educational nutrition seminars in Bridgewater at Richard Hall Mental Health Center and Somerset Home for Temporally Displaced Children.  We distributed 35 bags and vouchers that are redeemable at a local farm stand (transportation to the stand will also be provided). We also participated in “Stone Soup Bridgewater,” a day-long health fair hosted by Bridgewater Mayor Dan Hayes at Bridgewater Municipal Complex.  Twenty-five vouchers and bags were distributed at the event, where we educated community members about Farmer’s Markets and the local stand.

Our final 2016 nutrition seminar will be held in Green Brook on November 15 at the Green Brook Senior meeting.  Approximately 30 bags of fresh produce will be distributed to participants from a local farmer.

In 2017, we believe we will accomplish these goals:

  • Pass Complete Streets resolutions in Green Brook and Bridgewater. Once the resolutions are adopted, we will purchase bike racks or other equipment to support local initiatives to encourage active lifestyles.
  • Develop sustainable Farmer’s Markets in Green Brook and Bridgewater. We will also conduct educational sessions in all three targeted municipalities and distribute vouchers to underserved community residents.

Healthier Somerset wishes to thank NJHCN for their support, and for our partners in this grant:

the Bridgewater Department of Health; Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission; Morris-Somerset Regional Chronic Disease Coalition; New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education; Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset; and Somerset County Department of Health. We are also working closely with municipal and county elected officials, administrators and planners.

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Somerset County Adopts Complete Streets Resolution

Rebecca Perkins
November 14, 2016

Since our founding in 2010, Healthier Somerset has championed “Complete Streets,” the New Jersey Department of Transportation program designed and operated to enable safe access to roadways for all users – pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that agencies routinely design and operate the entire right of way to enable safe access for all users.

Nine of Somerset County’s 21 municipalities have passed Complete Streets resolutions: Bedminster, Bound BrookFar Hills, Hillsborough, Manville, Montgomery, North Plainfield, Raritan, and Somerville.  Healthier Somerset applauds them for their action!

In October the Somerset County Board of Freeholders became the 8th county in New Jersey to enact a resolution in support of Complete Streets. Freeholder Director Patricia Walsh (who is a member of Healthier Somerset’s Advisory Board and an active participant in Healthier Somerset) has noted that Somerset County will encourage the remaining 12 municipalities to enact a resolution of support.

At Healthier Somerset, we know, as do Somerset County officials, that enacting the resolution is only the first step to integrating the policy into future planning decisions.  Somerset County’s Director of Planning, Walter Lane, also works closely with Healthier Somerset, and is helping to align our activities with the Regional Center Partnership (Somerville, Raritan, and Bridgewater). With the support and participation of the Somerset County Business Partnership and their President and CEO, Michael Kerwin, in Healthier Somerset, we are forging an alliance that brings health-focused planning to transportation and economic development in Somerset County.

Somerset County has already demonstrated their active support for Complete Streets with a seminar held last month for municipal officials featuring planning officials from NJDOT and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority.  We are grateful for the shared vision with our Somerset County Freeholders and look forward to seeing passage of Complete Streets in all 21 municipalities!

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Healthier Somerset Presents Health Benefits of Complete Streets in Somerset County Workshop

Rebecca Perkins
November 3, 2016

On Wednesday, October 26, Healthier Somerset joined the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, RideWise TMA, and the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University to present the benefits of incorporating “Complete Streets” into municipal planning programs.  The Somerset County Division of Planning hosted planners, government officials, and health officers for this half-day session held at Steeplechase Cancer Center in Somerville, New Jersey.

Rebecca Perkins, Healthier Somerset’s project manager, spoke on the health impacts of Complete Streets. She noted that Complete Streets has been part of Healthier Somerset’s planning agenda since the organization’s founding in 2010.  Incorporating Complete Streets into municipal planning offers both individual health benefits, including promoting physical activity, encouraging active living, and reducing obesity and related illnesses, and public health benefits, including safer streets, a cleaner environment, and improved mental health.

Complete Streets addresses all of Healthier Somerset’s Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) goal areas: mental health and substance abuse; obesity; chronic disease; and access to care.

Nine of the 21 Somerset County municipalities currently have Complete Streets policies in place.  Three of these – Bound Brook, Manville, and Somerville – were added during Healthier Somerset’s “ShapingNJ” 2015 grant.  The ninth municipality, North Plainfield, passed their resolution just months ago, noting that bicycle racks offered to the borough by Healthier Somerset as part of our current NJHCN grant, were an incentive.  Representatives from both Bridgewater and Green Brook, our two remaining targeted 2016 municipalities, attended the October 26 session.

Healthier Somerset proudly shares our Complete Streets success with numerous partners, with exceptional efforts from RideWise TMA, Somerset-Morris Regional Chronic Disease Coalition, and many local public health officers. The Healthier Somerset presentation (available at concluded by noting that “collaboration is the key to our success.” We are especially appreciative to the Somerset County Board of Freeholders and the Planning Division for providing this opportunity for enhanced collaboration!

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