Imagine a world where everyone lives in a healthy community that improves quality of life.

Access to healthy food, quality health care, financial education, and a supportive educational system enables all Passaic County residents of all ages (children, teenagers, adults and seniors) to thrive, and lead healthy lifestyles.

United Way of Passaic County understands the socioeconomic and community-level factors that contribute to health outcomes. Our work is helping to create healthier communities as well as motivating individuals in our community to take steps to a healthier life. Inspiring the community to engage, mobilize and volunteer around health issues, we're working to improve nutrition and support healthy lifestyles for youth and adults.

Learn About the Issue

  • 18% of low-income preschool children (ages 2 – 5 years) in New Jersey are obese.
  • Across the state, 15.4% of children (ages 10 – 17) are obese and only 29.1% of children (ages 6 -17) participate in vigorous physical activity every day.
  • Almost 30% of New Jerseyans report no leisure-time physical activity or consumption of fruits and vegetables.
  • The leading causes of ill-health in Passaic County are diet-related chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
  • The cost of food locally, in particular for fresh vegetables and fruits, has increased by almost increased 5% since 2010 – making purchasing nutritious food even more difficult.
  • Recent estimates note that ~6% of Passaic County residents experience some level of food insecurity.
  • 16.5% of persons within Passaic County are below the poverty guidelines (compared to 9.4% of persons in New Jersey as a whole).
  • More than 32,000 Passaic County households struggle to have enough food to eat every day. Those most at risk for "food insecurity" include the unemployed/under-employed, people with disabilities, single parents with children, people with language barriers, and Native American communities.
  • Passaic County's rate of food insecurity is among the highest in New Jersey. Issues of food availability, limited access to healthy food options and lack of nutrition knowledge lead to poor nutrition habits, obesity and related "lifestyle" diseases.
  • United Way of Passaic County and its partners launched the Hunger Free Communities Initiative to raise community awareness of food insecurity in our community and to identify lasting solutions. From this work United Way founded the Passaic County Food Policy Council to lead implementation of the Hunger Free Action Plan.

Together With Our Partners, United Way of Passaic County

  • Created ‘Building a Culture of Health: Blueprint for Action in Passaic County’ . This community Blueprint for Action is a call to collective action to Build a Culture of Health in Paterson and the surrounding municipalities. The Blueprint for Action addresses the social determinants of health- the drivers of health outcomes – and includes four focus areas: Healthy Food Access, Economic Opportunity, Access to Clinical Healthcare, and Community Safety. It is a reflection of the direction, commitment, and alignment of many organizations, community members, and institutions that are united to improve our communities. In March of 2019, we reconvened with the community to give a progress report. A summary of this can be read here. Building A Culture of Health: Blueprint for Action Progress Report
  • Founded the Passaic County Food Policy Council (PCFPC), a diverse body of 35 members representing private, non-profit and public sectors, working to ensure that Passaic County residents have access to safe, nutritious, affordable food. The PCFPC is responsible for implementing the Healthy Food Access strategies outlined in the Blueprint for Action which include:  Federal Meals Programs, Healthy Food Procurement, Wellness Policies, Nutrition and Cooking Knowledge, and Healthy Corner Stores.
  • Service Site for Food Corps:  The United Way of Passaic County has been a FoodCorps service site since 2014. Currently, our FoodCorps member serves in Paterson Schools  #8 and #17. In our time as a service site, we have built 3 new school gardens in Passaic County and taught bi-weekly cooking and gardening lessons to over 800 students. We recently graduated two preschools in Wayne and Passaic from the FoodCorps program. FoodCorps is the leading national service organization working to provide a healthier future for our nation’s children.
  • Published Where's the Food? An Introduction to Food Insecurity and Food Access in Passaic County. The report, which is the first in-depth analysis of food security in Passaic County, looks at whether adequate food is available, how residents can access it, and if they can afford it.
  • Implemented the Nutrition Matters Program, in partnership with Children's Day Nursery & Family Center and the Center for Family Resources. The program educated 42 preschool children and their parents about smart grocery shopping, understanding food labels, healthy cooking and the importance of exercise.
  • Implemented the Hunger Free Seniors pilot project. The project identified 35 seniors at risk of food insecurity and malnutrition, and used nutrition assessments, monthly food delivery and monitoring to improve food security and well being.
  • Provided grant funding to CUMAC-ECHO for the continuation of emergency food assistance to more than 30,000 Passaic County residents.

United Way of Passaic County’s goal is to promote healthy nutrition and food environment within which all County residents can have access to healthy foods and live a healthy lifestyle.