The New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health began in November of 2008 with a $10 million capital award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 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 as a "Signature Initiative" by Rutgers' 19th president, Richard McCormick, as part of the Our Rutgers, Our Future capital campaign. The institute became operational in March of 2010 with the arrival of Peter Gillies as its founding director. In October of 2015, the institute opened the doors of its new home on the G. H. Cook Campus.
The New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health (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 operates along 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 address this vulnerable population, the IFNH, in partnership with the New Jersey Child Institute, is launching a new program called the New Jersey Healthy Kids Initiative. The goal of this program is to redefine child health in terms of modern day science and medicine. More specifically, the objective of the program is to use a systems approach that defines the healthy child in terms of metabolic health, physical fitness, emotional resilience, and cultural empowerment in order to foster life-long healthy lifestyles. In this regard, prevention rather than treatment is the strategy of the institute.
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.
- Core Values: The IFNH has three defining core values that frame its activities and decision-making processes:
- Academic Interdisciplinarity
- Community Responsibility
- Collective Success
- Identity: The visual identity mark signals that the IFNH grows through a model 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.