Laura Torchio Named Project Coordinator for "Eat. Play. Live...Better"

Montclair resident heads community prevention initiative focusing on healthy eating and active living.

Release Date: April 5, 2013

Laura Torchio of Montclair has been named the Project Coordinator for Eat. Play. Live…Better, a community prevention initiative that focuses on healthy eating and active living, and making the healthy choice the easy choice for residents of all ages.

Montclair State University has received a three-year grant from the Partners for Health Foundation to become the backbone organization for the initiative.

Since Eat. Play. Live…Better was launched by Partners for Health in May 2011, community organizations and individuals across Montclair have come together to improve access to healthier lifestyle options, promote the healthy choices already available and enhance infrastructure to make these choices safe and attractive. This approach was taken because studies show a lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating habits contribute to many chronic illnesses that are otherwise preventable.

“After two years of coordinating Eat. Play. Live…Better internally, Partners for Health recognized that in order for the initiative to grow, expand to other area communities and reach its full potential, it needed regular, consistent coordination and leadership,” said Pam Scott, executive director. “We are delighted to be partnering with Montclair State University, and have awarded the University a three-year, $377,000 grant to provide this leadership and support as the backbone organization. The Foundation will remain involved at the steering committee level.”

Amanda Birnbaum, PhD, chair of the Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences at Montclair State, serves as the grant’s principal investigator and will work directly with the project coordinator. Birnbaum has been involved with the Foundation’s project work relating to healthy lifestyles since 2008.

According to Birnbaum, “Researchers and practitioners have learned that multi-sector collaborations such as Eat. Play. Live…Better are needed to bring about meaningful, sustainable changes in our health behaviors. Partners for Health Foundation has been visionary in this effort, and it is an honor for Montclair State to be able to provide the backbone support and leadership. We are extremely fortunate to have Laura Torchio taking on the coordinator role, bringing to bear her expertise in bicycle and pedestrian safety and community advocacy.”

Montclair State University President Susan A. Cole adds, “We are pleased to partner on this important initiative promoting healthy eating and active living. Together we will engage organizations and individuals in efforts to develop and sustain policy and environmental changes to help make the healthy choice the easy choice within our communities. This endeavor represents a wonderful investment in our shared future.”

As the project coordinator, Torchio will manage and cultivate relationships with community partners, develop and disseminate messages, and support partners’ targeted interventions.  She will also recruit new partners; guide the progress of working groups; facilitate collaboration across constituencies; and identify and apply for funding to grow and sustain the initiative. She will begin on April 22.

Torchio brings a strong background in partnership building and leadership to this role. As the New Jersey advocacy organizer for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s State Network Project, her focus was to work with state leaders to help reverse the obesity epidemic by leveraging federal funding for infrastructure improvements, facilitating biking and walking policies, and advancing agreements for schools and municipalities to share playgrounds, parks and gyms.

Prior to her work with the Partnership, she was a planning consultant with The RBA Group in Parsippany, managing projects related to bicycle and pedestrian safety and accessibility, healthy and livable communities planning, Complete Streets policy and design and Safe Routes to School program development. 

Torchio lives in Montclair and spends her “free” time as a mom and as a Trustee of Bike&Walk Montclair. Bike&Walk Montclair is a non-profit organization whose aim is: “more people walking and biking on safe, complete streets.” Torchio and her fellow volunteers have been working toward a more walkable and bicycle-friendly Montclair since 2002.

Torchio notes, “Eat. Play. Live…Better is an initiative near and dear to my heart and I was pleased to learn that the Partners for Health Foundation and Montclair State University were teaming to expand the program. During my five-year tenure as president of Bike&Walk Montclair, I was delighted to help launch the initiative at our annual Tour de Montclair in 2011. This is a timely opportunity to reach deeper into our surrounding communities and build partnerships for sustained healthy eating and active living programs, policies and events.”

For more information visit EatPlayLiveBetter.org.

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