The New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health (IFNH) began in November of 2008 with a $10 million capital award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to the Rutgers University Foundation. Under the co-directorship of Dr. Philip Furmanski and Dr. Robert Goodman, the purpose of the award was to help Rutgers create a research institute that leveraged the university's rich history in the areas of agriculture, food, nutrition and health. The institute was designated a "Signature Initiative" by Rutgers' 19th president, Richard McCormick, as part of the Our Rutgers, Our Future capital campaign. The institute's founding director, Dr. Peter Gillies, was recruited to Rutgers in March of 2010 and the institute officially opens its doors on the G.H. Cook Campus in October of 2015.
The IFNH underscores the commitment of Rutgers University to new transformational initiatives across the many disciplines impacting food, nutrition, and health. The IFNH draws on the strengths of the entire university as it physically co-locates and strategically aligns the diverse competencies and deep capacity of Rutgers to address society's major unmet health problems. Presently, the IFNH has approximately 100 members drawn from 9 schools and 28 different departments.
The institute oversees a spectrum of translational activity ranging from basic research to community outreach. The breadth of its activities is reflected in the diversity of its research centers, thematic programs, and student services. As one of its top program priorities, the institute focuses on ways to stem the epidemic rise in childhood obesity and obesity-related disorders such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. This is particularly important in New Jersey where 16% of 2-4 year olds are already obese. To serve this vulnerable population, the IFNH, in partnership with the Child Health Institute of New Jersey, launched a new program called the "New Jersey Healthy Kids Initiative". This signature initiative places child health at the interdisciplinary epicenter of medicine, nutrition, culinary arts, physical activity, lifestyle management, and early education. The programs will unfold with community input, be informed by thought-leader conferences, be guided by advisory boards, and operate out of the institute's Culture of Health Children's Academy. Although the initiative is New Jersey centric, it has the potential to be a model for other states and it positions New Jersey to be a voice on behalf of children everywhere.
The institute offers students and healthcare professionals a unique educational venue by providing an interdisciplinary research experience in an open-concept work environment, a venue that prepares them to be leaders in the 21st century workplace. The institute also recognizes its responsibility to engage with the community it serves in order to make New Jersey the "Healthy State" and a model for the nation. In this regard, the public is always welcome at the institute, a place where food, nutrition and health come together at Rutgers.
The institute is guided by the following organizational principles and core values:
- Vision: The IFNH is the organizational hub for interdisciplinary research in food, nutrition, and health at Rutgers University.
- Core Purpose: Unite faculty, staff, and students from across the university to work on serious, but preventable health problems in our society.
- Mission: Make New Jersey the “Healthy State” and a model for the nation.
- Identity: The visual identity mark signals that the IFNH grows and evolves through a process of self-assembly and that as a dynamic interdisciplinary organization it exceeds the sum of its parts.
- Emergent Properties: The transformative value of institute arises from its emergent properties, i.e., its ability to invent new programs and deliver outcomes not otherwise feasible in conventional organizations or traditional research cultures.