Jul 2, 2024 RWJBarnabas Health Awarded Funding to Become First in NJ to Embed SNAP Navigators in Hospitals to Help Tackle Hunger, Improve Health Outcomes

Grant from NJ Food Security Initiative will support navigators to assist with SNAP enrollment in all 12 system hospitals

Newark, NJ – July 2, 2024 – RWJBarnabas Health has announced that it was awarded a grant from the New Jersey Food Security Initiative (NJFSI) to support a first-of-its-kind program in New Jersey to embed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Navigators in each of the system’s 12 acute care hospitals. The goal of the program is to improve food security and reduce hunger by enhancing access to food, a healthy diet, and nutrition education for low-income residents.

“We are excited to join NJFSI in driving transformational practices, policies, systems, and environments to boost food security, enhance nutrition and address health equity across New Jersey,” says Barbara Mintz, MS, RDN, Senior Vice President, Social Impact and Community Investment, RWJBarnabas Health. “This work underscores our commitment to address food insecurity as a social determinant of health and as integral to the achievement of our mission to build and sustain healthier communities in the state.”

Under the initiative, highly trained navigators in each RWJBarnabas Health hospital will work closely with individuals to enroll them in SNAP and connect them with other food access resources, including the appropriate county office in their county. SNAP Navigators will also assist with the recertification process when necessary. Studies show SNAP lifts the average income of beneficiaries by 75% to help pay for food and basic necessities.

This project is intertwined with RWJBarnabas Health’s current efforts to address food insecurity – The Beth Greenhouse and Farmers Market at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, Sadie Vickers Community Garden in South Toms River, RWJBH’s Food Farmacy Program, the Common Market Farm to Pantry deliveries, Summer Feeding programs, etc. – to provide expanded engagement and SNAP connection opportunities.

RWJBarnabas Health serves the greatest proportion of Medicaid and Charity Care patients statewide with well over 25% of its total patient population qualifying for one of these programs. Through its Social Impact and Community Investment (SICI) practice, the system is working closely with the State Dept. of Human Services’ Division of Family Development the Office of the Food Security Advocate, key community partners and New Jersey farmers to break the cycle of hunger within its service areas and address other social determinants of health, including economic stability, education, affordable housing, and safe living.

Food insecurity is a well-documented, significant social determinant of health. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one in 12 New Jersey households reported in 2022, the last year for available data, that they struggled to put food on the table. Lack of access to healthy foods can adversely impact health outcomes across the lifespan, costing New Jersey an estimated $1.3 billion each year.

NJFSI is a collaboration of community organizations and local and state agencies, led by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to address food insecurity and health inequity in New Jersey and build upon other local and program-related investments to help finance more equitable access to healthier food retail options in under-resourced areas.

RWJBarnabas Health is among five NJFSI grantees that will share a combined $1.07 million to fund collaborations to enhance cross-sector coordination, expand community outreach efforts, and prioritize client-centered communications to improve equitable access, awareness, and referrals to federal nutrition programs and other critical food security resources. The other NJFSI grantees include local and state community-based organizations, government agencies, universities and school districts.

About RWJBarnabas Health

RWJBarnabas Health is the largest, most comprehensive academic health care system in New Jersey, with a service area covering eight counties with five million people. The system includes twelve acute care hospitals – Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, Community Medical Center in Toms River, Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, Jersey City Medical Center in Jersey City, Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus in Lakewood, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset in Somerville, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton in Hamilton, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Rahway in Rahway and Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth, three acute care children’s hospitals, Children’s Specialized Hospital with a network of outpatient pediatric rehabilitation centers, a freestanding 100-bed behavioral health center, two trauma centers, a satellite emergency department, ambulatory care centers, geriatric centers, the state’s largest behavioral health network, comprehensive home care and hospice programs, fitness and wellness centers, retail pharmacy services, affiliated medical groups, multi-site imaging centers and two accountable care organizations.

RWJBarnabas Health is among New Jersey’s largest private employers – with more than 41,000 employees and 9,000 physicians– and routinely captures national awards for outstanding quality and safety. RWJBarnabas Health launched an affiliation with Rutgers University to create New Jersey’s largest academic health care system. The collaboration aligns RWJBarnabas Health with Rutgers' education, research and clinical activities, including those at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey - the state's only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center - and Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care.

Contact: Carrie Cristello