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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