Tackling Obesity and Its Effects – Together


Provide access to affordable healthy foods including, but not limited to urban farms, community gardens and farmers markets.

Adopt a food policy that states that all children deserve high quality food.

Provide access to physical recreation and activities.

In 2013, the New Jersey Department of Health began the ShapingNJ initiative to address the issue of obesity at a statewide level. At that time, 1 in 4 adults in NJ were obese, nearly 1 in 3 children between the ages of 10 and 17 were overweight, and NJ had one of the highest obesity rates in the nation for low income children ages 2-5 years. In 2010, the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy issued the New Jersey Childhood Obesity Study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which found that overall, 44.2% of children in Newark were overweight and obese; 25.2% of whom were obese; 18.3% of whom were very obese.  These rates were significantly higher than obesity rates in the US as a whole.  The study also found that 70% of Newark children ages 3 to 18 did not meet guidelines for physical activity for 60 minutes per day. The 2016 RWJF-funded County Health Rankings reported that 27% of adults in Essex County had a BMI greater than 30; 27% of adults had no leisure time physical activity and the food environment index was 7.1.  All of these indicators were below both top performers nationally and in NJ overall.

We recognize that there are many organizations in Newark that are working to reduce obesity in the City.  Therefore, our focus is on bringing these organizations together, along with key academic and clinical experts, to develop common ways to help community residents, both adults and children, lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

of Newark children are overweight and obese
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We have broken the impact team into two subcommittees – one focused on data and one on nutrition.


The data team is working on getting all the research on resources available throughout our focused area.  This includes:

  • Mapping all corner stores, supermarkets, fast food restaurants, farmers markets and urban gardens in the south and west wards.
  • Once the data is available, it will be housed in a consumer-friendly format to be shared and distributed throughout the community.
  • A similar survey is also being conducted for recreation spaces.


  • The nutrition team is focused on advocating for policy shifts about nutrition city-wide.  This includes:

    • Meeting with clinical experts in nutrition
    • Working to identify all elementary schools in the south and west ward
    • Establish a fresh fruits and vegetable program in each school (currently a free program offered, underutilized)
    • Establish nutrition councils in each school to engage principal, food services, students and parents in making healthy choices throughout the school day.


The Food and Fitness Committee was formed in February 2017.

The committee consists of thought leaders from different sectors: 

Catherine P. Wilson,
United Way of Greater Newark

Community Development Corporations
Urban League of Essex County

Local Healthcare Providers
RWJ Barnabas

Community Development Leaders
YMCA, Shoprite, Program for Parents

Higher Education
Rutgers University-Newark

City of Newark Office
of Sustainability