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Gardening & Healthy Life Choices

About Us

Roots To Prevention (RTP) Camden is a cross-sectoral collaboration of nonprofits, healthcare providers, educational and government entities, with a focus on reducing upstream causes of illnesses. At RTP we believe that a healthy household is one that has the knowledge, income, and access to fresh fruits and vegetables in their daily diet. Thanks to funding support from the Build Health Challenge Grant and a generous match from Virtua Health (our lead healthcare partner), RTP is connecting residents with experts in food access, healthcare, nutrition, urban agriculture, data analysis, and creating a healthy local food economy.

Our Goals

Increasing Income Opportunities for Camden, NJ Farmers and Healthy Food Choices For Residents


opportunities to sell produce including local healthcare providers.


a prescription foods voucher that patients can redeem locally such as neighborhood corner stores. 


healthier lifestyles by making nutrition and support services more accessible outside the doctor's office and into the community.


 the importance of gardening programs in preventing cases of diet-related illnesses to policy-makers and force ample funding support.

Our Goals & Objectves

Our Objectives

Supplement Virtua Health’s Food Access Programs with fresh produce from locally grown sources including fruit & vegetable perscriptions recipients residing in Camden.

Develop a Food Bucks (FBRx) voucher that can be redeemed outside a doctor's office in exchange for fresh fruits and vegetables.

Expand access to warp-around supports and social services ensuring Camden residents can maintain healthier eating practices.

Maintain an advisory board where Camden residents provide guidance and leadership in developing RTP programs and activities

Create evaluation measures that support transparency and meaningful change through the use of new data sharing and collection measures.

Publish a pilot study by 2022 that summarizes the collective impact RTP has on increasing local food growing and healthier diets.

The Issues

Social Determinants of Health

The social determinants of health are all the environmental factors that influence your health, including early childhood development, employment opportunities, food insecurity, air and water quality, transportation, educational attainment, public safety, and housing.

Examples of social determinants that would impact your health include:

  • Is your home free of lead, mold, or other hazards?

  • Do you have access to affordable, nutritious food?

  • Do you have opportunities to exercise, either outside or at an exercise facility?

Income, education, housing, transportation, the built environment, and other “social” factors are the true “determinants” of your health – or as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has described it, “Where you live, work, learn, and play.” In collaboration with RWJF, the Virginia Commonwealth University has created life expectancy maps that illustrate the impact of the social determinants of health as you move through different neighborhoods of major US cities. We encourage you to also read this post on addressing social needs vs. social determinants of health and understanding the difference between the two.

Health Disparities

The BUILD Health Challenge defines health disparities as the differences in health outcomes based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. For example, minorities experience a higher prevalence of adverse health outcomes from chronic disease to mental illness to mortality rates than their white counterparts.

As a New York Times analysis declared in 2015, “Income Inequality: It’s Also Bad for Your Health.” The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps project also provides detailed breakdowns of county-by-county health disparities in data, maps, and more.

Health Equity

Health equity is achieved when immutable characteristics such as race, gender, sexual identity, and more are not correlated to higher rates of adverse health outcomes; i.e. that historically marginalized groups are no longer bearing a disproportionate burden of disease.

One of the goals of the BUILD Health Challenge is to promote health equity by creating conditions to allow people to meet their optimal level of health.


An upstream approach addresses the community factors that shape health before any clinical intervention is necessary (also known as social determinants of health). These factors can include fields as diverse as affordable housing, public safety, access to healthy food, and economic opportunity.

The de Beaumont Foundation’s Brian Castrucci discusses how public health ties into moving upstream to improve health and cut healthcare costs in the Huffington Post’s “Rowing Together: How Public Health Supports the ‘Upstream’ Doctor.”

The Issues
Press Features

Partners, Sponsors, & Funding

Our Partners & Funders

The BUILD Health Challenge is a unique national program focusing on bold, upstream, integrated, local, and data-driven projects that can improve community health. The BUILD Health Challenge award provides funding, capacity-building support, and access to a national peer learning network to enhance collaborative partnerships here locally and address the city’s most pressing health challenges.

As an awardee, Roots to Prevention became one of 18 applicants selected out of 133 submissions nationwide. This 2+ year-long program is BUILD’s third funded cohort. In addition to receiving BUILD’s maximum funding of $250,000, RTP benefits from a wealth of research data, case studies, and technical resources support.

The BUILD Health Challenge is made possible with the support of: Blue Cross Blue Shield South Carolina Foundation, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, Blue Shield of California Foundation, Communities Foundation of Texas, de Beaumont Foundation, Episcopal Health Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc., New Jersey Health Initiatives, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The Build Health Challenge

Parkside Business and Community in Partnership (PBCIP)

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PBCIP is RTP’s lead Community-Based Organization (CBO). As a community development, resident-led non-profit, PBCIP oversees a variety of healthy food access programs and facilities which support it’s Roots to Market Initiative. Through this effort, PBCIP has been connecting Camden residents to free garden training, value-added food production workshops, gardens, as well as cooking demonstrations since 2014.

As the lead CBO, PBCIP is the BUILD Grant administrator of the BUILD Health Challenge® Grant in addition to overseeing RTP’s community engagement and for-profit food growing and selling responsibilities for the collaborative and its pilot.

Virtua Health


Virtua Health is committed to helping our neighbors in South Jersey be well, get well, and stay well by
providing the complete spectrum of advanced, accessible, and trusted health care services. As a not-for-profit health system, Virtua is committed to the well-being of the community and provides innovative
outreach programs that address social challenges affecting health, especially access to nutritious food.
Since 2017, Virtua has invested in innovative food access programs that support the community by
providing access to affordable, fresh fruits and vegetables via its Mobile Farmers Market. The following
year Virtua opened our food as medicine program, which combines access to free produce and non-
perishable goods with nutritional education and wrap-around social services, as well as enhanced data
collection for tracking health outcomes.

Virtua is proud to serve as the lead health care provider for Roots to Prevention (RTP). Virtua supports
this diverse collaboration, which aims to address the root cause of diet-related chronic diseases. Which is why Virtua is committing to $200,000 of in-kind services to RTP including staff time, ranging from
community health workers to clinicians, leveraging our Mobile Farmers Market and food as medicine
program, administrative and facilities support, and supplemental nutrition education, and health
literacy. Through Virtua’s food as medicine program, an additional $50,000 of funding will help subsidize
RTP’s Food Buck Rx (FBRx) – vouchers that can be redeemed for fruits and vegetables – for food insecure patients. This funding will also purchase locally grown produce from Camden growers. The locally grown produce will be used to supplement Virtua’s Mobile Farmers Market and food as medicine program, creating access to free or discounted fresh produce for our patients and the communities we serve.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon-BCBSNJ)


Horizon BCBSNJ is New Jersey’s premier health care insurer serving generations of New Jersey families
for over 85 years. Horizon empowers members to achieve their best health by leading with strength,
integrity, and innovation to generate substantial improvements in health care quality, affordability, and
member experience.

As RTP’s lead health insurance partner, Horizon-BCBSNJ is sponsoring the Food Bucks Prescription
program through a combination of direct financial support, event production, and dedicated staff
service. Community engagement will include targeted health education, public events, and mobile
screenings. Horizon will also contribute to RTP’s research arm, providing guidance on value-based
decision-making, quantitative measures and health policy.

Camden County Department of Health & Human Services


The Health Department is governed by Freeholders who are dedicated to improving the quality of life for 500,000+ residents through health services and special initiatives. Thirty-seven municipalities, including Camden City, are served by the County. The mission of the Department is to improve the quality of life for all Camden County residents by providing and assuring access to quality health services and programs which are cost-effective and responsive to local needs.

As RTP’s lead government agency partner, the Health Department will support patient health screening needs for the non-Virtua patient population, expansion of dietary education resources, as well as advise on healthcare policy recommendations that demonstrate the viability of this collaboration’s programs as a potential service provider for Health Insurance Providers.

Rowan University’s Health & Exercise Science (HES) Department


Rowan University’s HES Department is RTP’s lead academic institutional partner in data collection and analysis. On-campus, they provide education and training for undergraduate and graduate students. HES offers rigorous degree programs in community health, health promotion and wellness management, nutrition, dietetics as well as other exercise science disciplines. Rowan's HES faculty have extensive training in community-based participatory research, health promotion, and wellness as well as multi-level public health interventions.

Their partnership role involves the study of how the healthcare sector can increase healthy outcomes for food-insecure families in low-income communities—through growing and also selling fresh produce. Through this collaboration, the University collaborators are identifying food-insecure patients for RTP’s Food Bucks Prescription (FBRx) program; support RTP’s data collection and data sharing needs; assist RTP partners with community ongoing engagement efforts; and, advising Parkside Business and Community in Partnership (PBCIP) in the identification of key quantitative and qualitative data collection metrics and analysis for tracking the progress of RTP’s collaboration and programs.

Camden County Coalition of Healthcare Providers (CCHP)

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The Camden Coalition’s mission is to spark a field and movement that unites communities of caregivers in Camden and across the nation to improve the wellbeing of individuals with complex health and social needs. Their vision is a transformed healthcare system that ensures every individual receives whole-person care rooted in authentic healing relationships.

Supporting Rowan’s Department of Health and Exercise Sciences (DHES) role, CCHP is assisting RTP with data-sharing, collection and program evaluation services. Specifically, by conducting food insecurity screenings to Camden residents outside of Virtua Health facilities as part of the Accountable Health Communities program, leveraging community engagement through their Community Advisory Committee, supporting data sharing infrastructure across RTP partners, and supporting RTP program evaluation activities.

The Food Trust

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The Food Trust, a Philadelphia-based national nonprofit, strives to make healthy food available to all. Working with food retailers, healthcare organizations, neighborhoods, schools, farmers, and policymakers, The Food Trust has developed a comprehensive approach that combines nutrition education and the greater availability of affordable, healthy food. The organization encourages healthy retail development in underserved communities, teaches kids how to eat healthily in schools, hosts cooking demonstrations at farmers markets, supports farm to school initiatives, and provides incentives to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. These efforts combined improve the health of people in our community.


As partners, The Food Trust is responsible for the facilitation and expansion of the Food Bucks Rx Program, which has been running in Camden since 2017. Food Bucks Rx is a produce prescription program in which healthcare providers give eligible patients "prescriptions" that can be redeemed at participating corner stores, farmers markets, and supermarkets for fresh produce. Their partnership will also explore new sales channels for Camden growers through their Healthy Corner Store Initiative and other distribution strategies. 

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