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Institute presents opportunity to bring together elements of the university’s newly integrated health science units with Rutgers’ traditional strengths in the life sciences and social sciences

President Robert L. Barchi addresses crowd at groundbreaking ceremony. In background are, left to right, Peter Gillies, director of IFNH, and Executive Vice President, Academic Affairs and Interim Chancellor Richard Edwards. 
Photo: Nick Romanenko

Rutgers officials formally broke ground on a nearly 80,000 square-foot building for the new Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health, dedicated to fighting childhood obesity associated with adult diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

President Robert L. Barchi said the institute presents an opportunity to bring together elements of the university’s newly integrated health science units with Rutgers’ traditional strengths in the life sciences and social sciences. The idea behind the institute is to create and physical space where interdisciplinary research, teaching and outreach to the community can take place.

 “We’re at 17 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) being spent on health care in this country, headed for 20 percent,” said Barchi, at the August 30 groundbreaking on the university’s Cook Campus. “That’s three times as much as other developed countries. This amount is unsustainable. We need changes in behavior, and changes in how we approach societal issues.”

The institute brings together faculty members from complementary programs throughout the university, including Rutgers' departments of food science, nutrition, public policy, pharmacy, exercise science and sport studies, genetics, agriculture and health sciences research.  It will house several centers, including the Center for Childhood Nutrition & Education, dedicated to educating pre-school aged children about nutrition, and a specialized Student Health Center, which will provide advanced counseling for eating disorders and incorporate nutritional education as a part of health care.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which has made reducing childhood obesity a major top priority, gave Rutgers a $10 million grant toward construction of the institute building.  The new institute also received $36 million in capital support from the State of New Jersey and a $10 million endowed research fund from an anonymous donor.

Rutgers officials break ground for the new building on Cook Campus. Once complete, the institute will stand three-stories high.
Photo: Nick Romanenko

Childhood obesity was a focus of many remarks at the groundbreaking. Dwayne Proctor, senior program officer and team director for obesity at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said that one American child in three is affected by obesity. “And if you look at African-American or Latino children, you’re up to two out of three,” Proctor said. “If you look at children in low-income families, it’s still two out of three.” Proctor noted there had been progress in New Jersey recently, especially among teenagers. “But we have a long way to go,” he said. “We need multidisciplinary institutions like this one to establish a culture of health.”

The new building is located on the Cook Campus, just off Dudley Road, between the Food Science and Foran Hall. Once complete, it will stand three-stories high. It will include modular open-space research laboratories supported by clinical research facilities, a human performance center, a preschool education learning center, a conference center and a healthy eating courtyard. 

More information about the Institute and the architecture can be found on the institute’s website.