June 12, 2023
HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–On May 31, 2023, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, grew its Farm to Family program with the opening of a new community garden at Bromley Field & Sports Complex in Hamilton Township.
Twelve local families agreed to adopt individual plots of land in the garden for one year and learn how to grow healthy produce using sustainable gardening practices, with the guidance of a Master Gardener and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton’s own Registered Dietician Nutritionist, Taryn Krietzman. At the end of the year, the families can choose to renew or pass their plot to another family.
“Our collective hope is that these families will take what they have learned, share their knowledge with family and friends, and plant a garden plot or potted plants at home or throughout the community,” says Diane Grillo, Vice President of Health Promotion at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton. “Families can feel empowered to take ownership, proudly engage in land stewardship, and pass along knowledge in their own community and cultural context.”
The Farm to Family Community Garden expands Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton’s already successful Farm to Family nutrition education, health screening, and food security programs hosted at Hamilton Township’s Bromley Community Center and John O. Wilson Center. These initiatives are part of the RWJBarnabas Health Social Impact and Community Investment (SICI) practice and 100% free-to-participate. The new community garden was built alongside the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton Community Field, a turf soccer field opened in the summer of 2021 in collaboration with RWJBarnabas Health, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, The PDA Urban initiative, and Hamilton Township. The field is also part of the RWJBarnabas Health Social Impact and Community Investment (SICI) practice and provides a safe space for children in the community to stay active, promotes their physical and mental health, and keeps them away from other potential distractions and negative influences.
According to the American Medical Association, 50% of an individual’s overall health is directly influenced by socioeconomic and environmental factors, such as economic stability, neighborhood and built environment, education access and quality, and healthcare access and quality. Social determinants of health like these can have a major impact on the overall health and well-being of individuals and neighborhoods alike.
The Farm to Family Community Garden, the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton Community Field, and related programs represent a multifaceted approach to address negative social determinants of health by improving the safety and beautification of neighborhoods, encouraging outdoor physical and mindfulness activities, supporting economic stability, and provide access to health care services—among other benefits.
“Our hospital’s efforts to continue connecting with every individual and family in the surrounding area with healthy spaces, such as the community garden, helps to better serve as a point of early intervention for medical care, specialty care services, and as a resource for referrals in every aspect of life and well-being,” says Richard Freeman, President & CEO of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton. “Programs like this, in addition to access to quality care, play a critical role in our society’s healthcare ecosystem.”
“The Farm to Family Community Garden is also perfect example of how public-private partnerships can contribute to the optimal health and well-being of our local communities,” says Grillo.
The garden was made possible by the commitment of many local leaders, organizations and businesses, including Hamilton Township, Mayor Jeff Martin of Hamilton, and Fred Dumont, Director of Community & Economic Development for Hamilton Township; Sharbell Development Corp.; Catholic Youth Organization of (CYO) of Mercer County; Truist Bank; the Rotary Club of Hamilton Township, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton’s Community Impact Alliance; Isles Inc.; Snipes Farm and Education Center; Costello’s Ace Hardware of Mercerville; and the original Farm to Family funders, Wawa and the Holman Foundation.
The RWJBarnabas Health Social Impact and Community Investment (SICI) practice leverages the system’s broad range of assets to advance a culture of health and improve the quality of life for communities in New Jersey and throughout the globe. With an emphasis on ensuring health equity, the practice of SICI is rooted in strategic policy change, combined with evidence based and innovative programs that address the social, economic, and environmental conditions that have a significant impact on health outcomes. Visit our website to earn more about The RWJBarnabas Health Social Impact and Community Investment (SICI) practice.
Local community members interested in learning more and participating in any of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton’s Farm to Family programs, Community Education or Better Health Programs are encouraged to contact the Health Connection team by email to CommunityEdHAM@rwjbh.org or by phone at (609) 584-5900.
Visit rwjbh.org/HamiltonPrograms to view Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton’s monthly program calendar online and register for programs.
RWJBarnabas Health, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, community partners, and local residents participate in the Farm to Family Community Garden opening ceremonies at Bromley Field & Sports Complex in Hamilton Township, NJ.