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Gerber Recognize Graduates of Childhood Nutrition Program

Approximately 280 Families Equipped with Nutrition Resources to Address Newark’s Childhood Obesity Issue
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Newark, NJ

On Saturday, July 30th, Gerber Products Company, a Nestlé company, Rutgers University-Newark, Newark Fairmount Promise Neighborhood (NFPN), and Program for Parents, Inc., will host a special celebration at Metropolitan Baptist Church to recognize 114 families from Newark (many from NFPN) who completed the Start Healthy, Stay HealthyTM Early Childhood Nutrition Education Program. The new cohort now brings the total number of Newark family graduates to 280. The program aims to provide knowledge to parents and caregivers to assist them in reducing Newark’s high childhood obesity rate. “It is much easier to start a child with good nutrition behaviors than it is to change bad ones. We also believe that families that start healthy are more likely to stay healthy and we want to help Newark families develop a positive nutrition trajectory,” said Dr. Wendy Johnson-Askew, Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, Gerber.

This initiative, an expansion of a program initially launched in 2012 in collaboration with the City of Newark, Office of the Mayor, and Gerber, was developed in response to a Rutgers 2010 survey that found that 27 percent of Newark’s children aged three-to-five years are obese -- a rate more than twice the national average.

The curriculum for the educational program is based on findings from the 2008 Nestlé Feeding Infants & Toddlers Study (FITS), a cross-sectional study that assessed the eating patterns of children under four years. FITS is the same study that illustrated that dietary patterns are set early and that young children are not consuming enough vegetables or whole grains.

The curriculum includes modules on benefits of breastfeeding, introduction of solids, transitioning to table food, managing the picky eater, recognizing hunger and fullness cues, and healthy snacking. The modules represent behaviors and stages that have been identified either in scientific literature or from the FITS data set that seem particularly problematic for parents.

Under the direction of Dr. Diane Hill, assistant chancellor for university-community partnerships at RU-N, Hill’s team planned and surveyed members of the community to certify the suitability of the curriculum. “Ever mindful of the priorities of RU-N’s strategic plan, we were able to garner a large turnout, which included fathers, because we tailored the program to fit the needs of the community,” remarked Hill. For example, because teenage parents comprised 40 percent of the participating families, West Side High School served as one of the sites for training and recruitment.

Classes were taught by registered dietitians and public health nutritionists hired by RU-N. Chesney Blue, a Registered Dietitian, the immediate past-president of the New Jersey Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and a current student of RU-N’s School of Public Affairs and Administration’s Master of Public Health Program, served as one of the instructors. Other RU-N students, graduate and undergraduate, served on the project team as research assistants and spearheaded outreach to community partners for program recruitment and training sites.

Thirteen peer educators were identified over the course of the program based on their level of interest and overall performance during the modules. Upon completion of all requisite modules, those selected to be peer educators received additional training in various subjects such as public speaking to bolster their readiness to teach the classes in their communities moving forward. This process ensures that the newly acquired knowledge and skills remain in the community.

About Gerber

Gerber Products Company, a leader in early childhood nutrition, was founded in 1928 in Fremont, Michigan. Gerber joined the Nestlé family on September 1, 2007.

About Newark Faimount Promise Neighborhood

NFPN is a collaborative of resident, service, non-profit, philanthropic and government organizations working together to support development in the Fairmount community of Newark, NJ. NFPN is one of more than 40 federal Promise Neighborhoods across the country operating under the shared vision that "all children and youth growing up in Promise Neighborhoods have access to great schools and strong systems of family and community support that will prepare them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and a career."

About Rutgers University‒Newark (RU-N)

RU-N is a diverse, urban, public research university that is an anchor institution in New Jersey’s cultural capital. Approximately 12,000 students are currently enrolled at its 38-acre campus in a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered through the Newark College of Arts and Sciences, University College, the Graduate School-Newark, Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick, the School of Law-Newark, the School of Criminal Justice, and the School of Public Affairs and Administration.

At a historical moment when higher education is greatly needed to fulfill its promise as an engine of discovery, innovation, and social mobility, RU-N is exceptionally well positioned to fulfill that promise. It has a remarkable legacy of producing high-impact scholarship that is connected to the great questions and challenges of the world. It has the right mix of disciplines and first-rate interdisciplinary centers and institutes to take on those questions and challenges. It is in and of a city and region where its work on local challenges undertaken with partners from sectors resonates powerfully throughout our urbanizing world. Most importantly, RU-N brings an incredible diversity of people to this work—students, faculty, staff, and community partners—making it more innovative, more creative, more engaging, and more relevant today and into the future.

About Programs For Parents, Inc. (PfP)

PfP is a not-for-profit organization which works to ensure that children get the best possible start in life. It accomplishes this by promoting quality child care services within the community. It links families seeking child care with those organizations that provide such skills. In addition, its goal is to continue to enhance the skills and activities of child care providers so that children and families receive high quality services in the areas of health, safety, and child development.

Media Contacts

Gerber Products Company
Elizabeth Velez
Phone: 973-593-7747
Email: [email protected]

Rutgers University-Newark
Karrin Pitt
Phone: 973-353-5262
Email: [email protected]