Greater Newark Conservancy Making Newark a Greener City
As a part of our "Newark at a Crossroads" series, taped at NJIT, Steve Adubato sits down with Robin L. Dougherty, Executive Director of the Greater Newark Conservancy, to discuss her organization's mission to making Newark a greener and healthier place to live.
"We are now joined by Robin Dougherty, who is executive director Greater Newark Conservancy. How you doing? I'm doing really well. It's a beautiful day. It sure is. We're taping at the end of the Summer of 2016. For those who don't know what the Greater Newark Conservancy is, describe it. Sure. Our mission is to promote environmental stewardship to improve the quality of life in New Jersey urban communities. You really do make a difference in a lot of areas in Newark, sometimes we refer to it as a "food desert." Mm hmm. What does that mean? Well a food desert has actually been described nationally by the USDA, and it really relates to how far a certain number of people live from a grocery store. And so in Newark we've had traditionally one grocery store for a very long time in the Central Ward, and so many people didn't have the accessibility to get to that store very easily. They'd have to take two or three buses, then you have to walk with, you know, multiple bags, and so that was considered to be a food desert. People are shopping at local bodegas instead of grocery stores, and so the USDA did, in fact, indicate that Newark qualified as a food desert. And your organization's trying to change that. So one of the initiatives, Community Greening, what is it? Right. So when the Conservancy was founded in 1987, it was really an outgrowth of Rutgers cooperative extension, and they were doing a lot of vegetable gardening. At that time, there was a great need for beautification projects. And so, we founded this organization called Friends of Urban Gardening, which was the precursor to Greater Newark Conservancy, and it did a lot of tree planting, shrubs, beautification, work in the parks, working with ex offenders, planting trees. And sort of got a little bit away from that model that the cooperative extension had, which was food gardens. Right. Circle back, 1998 to 2002, our food systems are beginning to be poisoned, people are eating fast food, obesity is, you know, out of proportion. It's at epidemic levels. And we started looking back at our roots of helping people grow their own food, and becoming healthier. We've always had a health mission, we've brought a nutrition educator onto our staff, but really showing people how they can contribute in a positive way to their... Robin, do this first. Sorry for interrupting. Sure. Keep that shot up there team. What are we looking at right there? And where is that? So this is in back of the Krueger-Scott Mansion. Yeah. Which is a historical... Historic location right here in Newark..."