Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton recently 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,” Diane Grillo, vice president of health promotion at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, said. “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 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 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.
“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,” Richard Freeman, CEO and president of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, said. “Programs like this, in addition to access to quality care, play a critical role in our society’s health care 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,” Grillo saiid.
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 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.