New Jersey Health Initiatives - A Better State of Health
A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Program
My Eyes Have Been Opened

My name is Viviana and I have lived in Elizabeth for my whole life. One day I got a call that I was accepted to the Next Generation Community Leaders program here in the city. I had no idea that I would learn so many new things about the community where I have always lived.

Our Elizabeth team met monthly to get to know each other and to figure out a community need we could do something about. Our coaches, project director and others were very helpful through the whole process of figuring out what we wanted our project to be about and helped us to build a real team, which was fun. We talked and drew pictures about health issues. After a few meetings it seemed that our discussions were getting more focused. Then it happened…

We were talking about people not having enough to eat. After one of our teambuilding exercises, we walked over to a local food pantry across from the office. There was a very long line filled by very hungry people, and our project leader introduced us to the man who ran the pantry. He said sometimes the line stretched around the block. I was shocked by the amount of people in my city who are unable to get food.

After one of our teambuilding exercises, we walked over to a local food pantry across from the office. There was a very long line. I was shocked by the amount of people in my city who are unable to get food.

After that experience, our group decided we would help people who need a way to get food consistently. We learned about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a Federal program that is managed by our County that helps people get food. This summer we were stationed at a number of locations around the city – where we could meet people in need and help them get to the right person so they could apply for SNAP benefits.

I feel like before this team, I was in a daze. I was never aware of the food insecurity in my city but now I am awake. I can see now that the people in our community need our support and my team was there to provide it. I am proud of how our team worked to help individuals and families get the food they need so they can ultimately lead better and healthier lives.

Follow Elizabeth’s Next Generation Community Leaders alumni to see their progress. Track all of the Next Generation Community Leaders alumni through the hashtag #NJLeaders2030.

Photo caption: Viviana Borga (center) confers with Next Generation Community Leaders cohort members on their summer program design.
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Project
Author
Viviana Borga
Organization
Groundwork Elizabeth