NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Rutgers New Jersey Healthy Kids Initiative (NJHKI) is centered on the goal of making New Jersey kids the healthiest in the country and therefore focuses on health equity and community partnerships. The Horizon Foundation has supported NJHKI’s Culture of Health School Program for three years, providing funding to implement nutrition and physical literacy education to schools across the state.
On February 22, these advocates for health equity in New Jersey came together to commemorate their long-standing relationship and support a fellow non-profit—The Community Food Bank of New Jersey (CFBNJ)—that addresses critical food insecurity needs in the state.
They packed the food boxes with items such as quinoa, peanut butter, canned vegetables and meats, boxed milk and whole-grain cereals.
“I was in awe of not only how organized and efficient the operation was at the Community Food Bank of NJ, but how healthy, medically tailored, and family-targeted the food boxes were,” said Peggy Policastro, director of Nutrition for Rutgers Dining Services and director, IFNH Culinary Health Program.
At the end of the half-day session, the volunteers had packed 392 Diabetes Boxes and 504 Family Pack Boxes, which supported approximately 8,811 meals.
NJHKI team member Christopher Gunning, a registered dietitian, said, “Seeing the scale of the CFBNJ operation and getting to volunteer for a day was both inspiring and humbling. It was very impressive how well-run the operation is, largely thanks to many dedicated staff and volunteers. It is fantastic that they are able to provide this resource throughout the state, but sadly shows there remains an incredible need right in our very own communities to close the food insecurity gap.”
“Joining our partners at IFNH to participate in critical volunteer work to serve the state’s most vulnerable residents was an incredibly rewarding experience,” said Brigitte Hickey, Community Affairs and Corporate Partnerships, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. Hickey described volunteering as a great teambuilding activity and looked forward to joining forces again with the IFNH team to positively impact food accessibility and education.
The teams of volunteers helped back boxes of food for two very important CFBNJ programs: Food, Health and Hope: An Answer to Diabetes and their Family Pack program. Food, Health and Hope is an initiative in partnership with Summit Health Cares (supported by Horizon) that serves over 500 pre-diabetic or diabetic neighbors in need at several of their northern New Jersey partner pantries. The Family Pack program provides boxes of supplemental weekend groceries, along with fresh produce to families of children who rely on federally subsidized meals during the week and who, without this ‘food bridge,’ might go without the needed nutrition.
“Horizon’s partnership with Rutgers and the IFNH goes beyond financial support,” said Renee Woodside, senior program officer at The Horizon Foundation. “We all have a shared passion for addressing nutrition and food security, so volunteering at the Community Food Bank of New Jersey together just made sense. And it was a lot of fun!”
Volunteers included: New Jersey Healthy Kids Initiative (NJHKI) members Erin Comollo, Christopher Gunning, Dan Hoffman, Peggy Policastro, and Arnold Rabson; Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and The Horizon Foundation members Brigitte Hickey, Jennifer Goudy, Filomena Machleder, and Renee Woodside.