Montclair State University (MSU) recently announced that Laura Torchio of Montclair will be the project coordinator of Eat. Play. Live…Better (EPLB), a community prevention initiative that focuses on healthy eating and active living. As president of Bike&Walk Montclair, and New Jersey advocacy organizer for Safe Routes to School, the MSU alum has worked to facilitate policies that make it safer to walk and bike along the state’s roadways.
Torchio’s history of focusing on infrastructure to create social change is “visionary,” says Amanda Birnbaum, PhD, chair of MSU’s Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences, and the grant’s principal investigator. Birnbaum also works with the Partners for Health Foundation, which launched EPLB two years ago. “Laura brings tremendous expertise and experience, particularly around advocacy for policies and infrastructure that promote safe use of streets by everyone, along with equity and access to healthy foods,” says Birnbaum. “Our motto is: ‘Making the healthy choice the easy choice,’ which means rigging our environment to support eating that’s healthful. For example, if the default at school lunch is that you get fruit and vegetable automatically and have to ask for French fries—rather than the other way around–we’ll be much better off. “
As part of the initiative, community partners–such as schools, charity organizations, and restaurants—work to provide better access to healthy choices, promote the best options already available, and improve the infrastructure related to these choices. Eateries may earn the right to display the EPLB turquoise logo in their establishment if they pledge their menu items adhere to at least two of the following four criteria: no trans fats, low sodium, minimally processed, and the ingredients are locally sourced as much as possible.
Birnbaum told Baristanet today that two community partner restaurants are offering readers dining specials in celebration of Torchio’s appointment: bring a friend to Terra Tea Salon for salad and enjoy complimentary green tea, and ride your bicycle to Taquería Auténtica between April 20 and June 30 and get a free vegetarian taco.
“At MSU, we’re always trying to advance our mission to be a resource to the community, and to promote positive change,” says Birnbaum. “Eat. Play. Live…Better is an excellent example of that.”