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New Jersey Health Initiatives Funding Summer Program Employing Teenagers to Increase Enrollment in Summer Food Service Program in Jersey’s Poorest County

Bridgeton, NJ (July 18, 2016) – New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI) is funding an innovative new program for utilizing teenagers during the idle summer months, while also helping them learn how to become better leaders in their communities. The grant, made to the Gateway Community Action Partnership (GCAP) in Bridgeton, New Jersey, focuses on hiring teens to enroll eligible families in the Summer Food Service Program. That program – supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals while school is not in session.


“In Bridgeton, we started with only 9% participation with the Summer Food Service Program,” explained Mayor Albert Kelly, who is also President & CEO of Gateway Community Action Partnership. “We have worked hard and worked together – and as a result of that committed teamwork, have been able to double that number. We’re now feeding 18% of those eligible, but that still leaves far too many hungry children this summer. By engaging teens in our community, we can address the need to feed and at the same time, empower our youth to learn to lead.”


The bulk of the activity takes place in July, and includes going door-to-door to sign up families, and other forms of recruitment, including two flagship events:


·         Bridgeton Splash Park – Wednesday, July 20, 10:30 – 11:00 a.m.

Mayor Aitken Drive at Park Drive (adjacent to Cohanzick Zoo)

Youth Leaders will distribute information about the Summer Feeding sites to families visiting the water park.


·         Cohanzick Zoo – Friday, July 22, 10:30 – 11:00 a.m.

45 Mayor Aitken Drive, Bridgeton, NJ

Youth Leaders with canvas the zoo to inform families of the feeding sites in Bridgeton, NJ.


The 15 teenagers are also receiving training through a leadership retreat, and will present a report of their results to Bridgeton City Council and to the New Jersey League of Municipalities in the fall. In addition, the Youth Leadership Group will take a trip to Gleaning’s hydroponic farm in Bridgeton and package and distribute produce to seniors.


“Too often, I see communities treating their teens like a problem to manage, particularly while school is out,” said Bob Atkins, PhD, RN, FAAN, director of NJHI. “With a little guidance, we can turn the energy and passion of adolescence into a real resource for their communities. Teens want to be engaged and learn the leadership skills that will help them serve their neighborhoods for years to come. Mayor Kelly’s program in Bridgeton is a perfect example of how to benefit both teens and the community at large, at the same time.”


About New Jersey Health Initiatives

New Jersey Health Initiatives is the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Established in 1987 in honor of the New Jersey philanthropic legacy of RWJF’s founder, Robert Wood Johnson, NJHI supports innovations and drives conversations to build healthier communities through grantmaking across the State of New Jersey. To meet the many health needs of our state’s diverse populations, regions and communities, the NJHI program encourages collaboration across sectors to foster deep relationships committed to long-term change affording all New Jerseyans the opportunity to live the healthiest life possible. Learn more about NJHI at, and follow us on Twitter at


About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest private foundation in New Jersey and has worked for more than 40 years to improve health and health care. We are working with others to build a national Culture of Health enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives. RWJF has invested more than $900 million in New Jersey since 1972. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

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