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New ACNJ Report Targets Child Nutrition in Newark

June 24, 2014 | Community News, New Brunswick

ACNJ articleWhen it comes to building healthy communities, we’ve all heard the phrase “It takes a village” many times before. It certainly is true when it comes to the nutritional needs of the children of many cities throughout New Jersey.   This summer, the YMCA of Newark hosted a press conference for the release of a special Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) nutrition report entitled “Heading off Hunger: A Snapshot of Child Nutrition in Newark.” Advocates for Children in New Jersey received financial and technical support from New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to collect and analyze data to complete the special report.

As part of the research, ACNJ representatives met with groups and individuals to gather data to assess the nutritional status of children in Newark and identify ways to help meet those needs. The report recommendations are outlined below:

Recommended Solutions:

  • Increase gathering and availability of information and data about childhood nutrition and obesity.
  • Establish city-wide coordination of child nutrition programs.
  • Increase participation in the At-Risk After School Meal program.
  • Increase participation in the child care food program.
  • Issue specific guidance on food and nutrition for Newark schools.
  • Increase the number of stores in Newark that accept WIC benefits.
  • Promote breastfeeding among new mothers.

During the press conference where nearly 50 community, school and health representatives, as well as media from NJTV News, NWK TV and WBGO 88 were in attendance, Darrin Anderson, deputy director, NJ Partnership for Healthy Kids, led a distinguished panel who discussed how the community could work together to help better nourish Newark’s children. Panelist included: Luisa De Marchena-Lehing, deputy director, Food & Nutrition Services, The Office of Food Services Newark Public Schools; Jasmine N. Hall Ratliff, program officer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Elizabeth J. Reynoso, food policy director, City of Newark; and Diane Riley, director of advocacy, Community Foodbank of New Jersey.

The panelists discussed a number of efforts/initiatives that need further consideration and support, such as: food policy councils (e.g. Let’s Move Newark Council), community eligibility for school lunch (breaking down the barrier to application), and an overall city nutrition policy. Ratliff noted that “promoting health is just as important, if not as important, as treating illness.” She also shared a powerful story with the audience about a shop owner in Baltimore who chooses not to sell soda and instead personally helps customers select healthier, low-cost groceries to feed their families.

Cecilia Zalkind, ACNJ executive director, stated, ”Although Newark is still having a difficult time rebounding from the economic conditions, we need to better understand, identify and improve in the area of providing a nutritious diet.”

To view the complete report, visit:

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