PROJECT PROFILE: Glassboro Food and Health Equity Project
Achieving Community Food Security and Health Equity

This project aims to address community food security and health equity in Glassboro, NJ. Data from City Health Dashboard and Policy Map show that certain parts of Glassboro do not have physical or financial access to healthy and affordable food. Through this grant, we hope to increase access to affordable, healthy food for Glassboro residents. Beyond our initial project, we also want to support efforts to increase employment opportunities and improve the lives of children in our town. 

The project has two phases. Phase 1 projects were conducted from October 2020 to September 2021. Currently, we are about to begin Phase 2 projects.

For Phase 1 (completed), we used the tools and resources provided through this grant to initiate the Glassboro Grows project. This included pop-up public workshops and in-home garden programs with 26 households in Glassboro. We offered lessons on how to grow healthy and affordable food inside our own homes and apartments. We trained a team of health coaches, who met virtually with each household member on a weekly basis to help build their confidence, skills, and motivation to grow, prepare and eat the vegetables from their home gardens. 

Phase 2 (ongoing) includes four projects: (1) A 1-stop information hub to share information on food resources and food-related projects and activities in Glassboro; (2) An initiative to change municipal regulations on agricultural activities; (3) An enhanced food recovery network to distribute recovered food from restaurants to food-insecure residents; and (4) Expansion and operation of Rowan University community garden.

Project Team

  • Mahbubur Meenar, PhD (Project director) 

  • Leslie Spencer, PhD (Project co-director)

  • Melanie Stewart (Chair, Glassboro Health Equity Coalition)

  • Lea Donaghy, Shantae Henry, and Brianna Pellegrino (Students - Phase 1)

Glassboro Health Equity Coalition

  1. Megan Allain, Inspira Health

  2. Cari Burke, Acenda/Mosaic Family Success Center

  3. Sonya Harris, Bullock Garden Project

  4. Carla Kephart, Gloucester County Health Department

  5. Andrew Perrone, Rowan University Office of Volunteerism

  6. Daniele Spence, Borough of Glassboro

  7. Melanie Stewart, Creative Glassboro

  8. Dave Walters, First United Methodist Church


  1. Rowan University Office of Volunteerism

  2. Rowan Environmental Action League (R.E.A.L.)

  3. NJ Map


Rowan University Foundation was awarded this $50,000 grant under the New Jersey Health Initiatives program Small Communities Forging Hyperlocal Data Collaboratives, 2020 - 2022. NJHI is a statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Any questions? Please send an email to



Project Area and Goal

Glassboro’s beginnings date to the mid-late 18th century, when Gloucester County’s first glass production facility “Glass Works” was established. With an estimated population of 19,992 Glassboro is the fifth most populous municipality in southern New Jersey1. The town has a 9.18 sq. mile area with population density 2,023/sq. miles, about 2.5 times higher than Gloucester County average. The population has increased 7.7% since 2010, which is much higher than the 1.3% increase statewide. As Glassboro grows due to new development projects and as Rowan University expands, the population is predicted to rise. Residents of Glassboro are predominately white (66%) with 18% African American, 9.9% Hispanic or Latino, and 3.6% Asian. Compared to Gloucester County as a whole, Glassboro’s average income is much lower and poverty level is much higher. The median income is $71,962 (Gloucester County: $85,160), per-capita income $27,142 (Gloucester County: $37,888), and the percent of people living below the poverty level is 22.3% (Gloucester County: 7.6%).

Glassboro’s assets include an 800-acre Rowan University campus, Rowan Boulevard (a 400-million-dollar revitalization project connecting the University to its historic downtown), historic structures (e.g., Hollybush Mansion, Heritage Glass Museum), 20 religious institutions, many acres of green spaces, several locally-owned stores and restaurants, an art gallery, a planetarium, and several concert halls. The Borough serves thousands of visitors every year through a busy schedule of special events2 in the newly-constructed 1.75-acre Town Square and at its cultural institutions. Glassboro, however, is ranked as the 6th most distressed out of 24 Gloucester County municipalities3. The historic downtown arguably lacks character, identity, businesses, amenities, branding, and vibrancy. Lots of vacant lots, abandoned structures, and other target areas with opportunities for redevelopment exist throughout the Borough. While the University is an asset for the community in countless ways, the rapid rate of redevelopment may have left some longtime residents feeling disconnected and disoriented in a completely new commercial core. According to City Health Dashboard and PolicyMap, Glassboro has an array of challenges that may prevent many lower-income residents from living the healthiest life possible. Following the vision and goals of RWJF’s NJHI program, our project team is committed to supporting initiatives that address some of these challenges and advance health equity in Glassboro.


Project Tasks/ Programs - PHASE 1 (Oct 2020 to September 2021)

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The "Glassboro Grows" project includes three "Public Workshops" and a "Home Gardens" program with 26 households in Glassboro. We will teach how to grow healthy and affordable food in our own homes and apartments (indoors or outdoors). Data from City Health Dashboard and PolicyMap will help identify low-access and high-poverty areas to recruit participants.

Our participants won’t make lasting changes to their eating habits just by receiving education. If we want them to act on the information and resources we give them, we have to support them in the process. Under the "Health Coaching" program, we will recruit and train a team of health coaches, who will meet virtually with each family on a bi-weekly basis to help build their confidence, skills, and motivation to grow, prepare, and eat the vegetables from their home gardens.

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Our team members are committed to using available tools and data resources from NJHI and other partners to make informed decisions and initiate sustainable, collaborative efforts for long-term, community-focused solutions to achieve health equity. We will form the "Glassboro Health Equity Coalition" to further the project goals and help them become more sustainable. 


The Coalition members will discuss the scope of the grant, assess Phase 1 activities and outcomes, discuss any challenges, promote the overall initiative, communicate with respective networks to better understand the needs of the community, and discuss findings from available tools and data/maps. The coalition will develop a list of potential projects for Phase 2 (and beyond), prioritize them according to community needs and interest, discuss these with NJHI, and finalize a Phase 2 project.


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Growing lettuce - submitted by a participant

The "Growing Kit" distributed to participants

Growing mint - submitted by a participant

Prep work - submitted by a participant

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Inspira Health Foundation logo.jpg
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