Data & Society Research Institute Welcome Wednesday 3/11

Welcome Wednesdays is a series of evening, salon style gatherings for members of the Data & Society community to socialize, network, and share ideas.


On March 11th, 2020, filmmaker Ruchika Muchhala and Executive Producer, Karen Proctor, will be presenting their film project; Food for Thought: A Path to Food Security in Newark, NJ as a case study in the practice of participatory design research and data gathering. The film was made for RWJBarnabas Health in New Jersey and previously screened at EPIC2019.

This event is hosted by Director of Research, Sareeta Amrute

RSVP Here!

The Greater Newark Community Advisory Board with the support of RWJBarnabas Health, tackles food security in Newark

“Participating in this project informed me about so many things that I wasn’t aware of, like what a Food Desert is and how important it is to have access to healthy food…”

Shakira McKnight, Newark Youth Citizen Journalist

Newark Times

The driving force behind the documentary was the Greater Newark Community Advisory Board, a collaborative body of community leaders, organizations, and RWJBarnabas Health facilities working together to address the critical health issues facing the city of Newark. The documentary was supported by Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, Children’s Hospital of New Jersey and RWJBarnabas Health’s SICI Practice, which seeks to address the social determinants of health that contribute to poor health outcomes, reduced life expectancy and higher costs. The Practice aims to eliminate disparities and enhance equity in the communities that RWJBarnabas Health serves.

Food for Thought will be used to facilitate community-wide conversations in all five wards of the city of Newark, focused on the key issues raised in the documentary, including the prevalence of food insecurity in Newark, the linkages between access to quality food and community health, and solutions for addressing food insecurity.

“It’s imperative that we empower our youth to tell their important stories. Food for Thought is much more than a project, much more than a film. It is their plea for awareness and change,” said Michellene Davis,

Esq., Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, RWJBarnabas Health who created and leads the hospital system’s newly launched Social Impact and Community Investment Department (SICI).

(L to R) Michellene Davis, EVP and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, RWJBarnabas Health; Nathaly Agosto Filion, Chief Sustainability Officer, Office of Sustainability, City of Newark; Shakira McKnight, Citizen Journalist; Dr. Denise Rodgers, Vice Chancellor, Inter Professional Program, Rutgers University; Darrell K. Terry, Sr., President and CEO, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey; Amarylis Olivo, Founder, Garden of Worker Bees; Debra Vizzi, President and CEO, Community Food Bank of New Jersey; Lilo Stainton, Reporter, NJ Spotlight

Food for Thought: The Path to Food Security in Newark, NJis a new documentary created by Newark’s youth. The hourlong film explores food insecurity throughout the city of Newark, in an effort to raise awareness and inspire action; it premiered at The Priory in Newark on Tuesday, January 30.

The documentary was produced by the Greater Newark Community Advisory Board with the support of RWJBarnabas Health, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey.

Food for Thought: The Path to Food Security in Newark, NJ chronicles food insecurity in Newark through the perspective of young Newarkers (ages 12 to 21) from area schools and community-based organizations. The film highlights community-based assets and ideas about how to change systems, structures, and policies to enhance access to healthy and affordable food in Newark. Directed and produced by Ruchika Muchhala, Third Kulture Media. Read more here.

On Air with Steve Adubato PBS

Marilyn Harris, Vice President of Community Relations at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, discusses a documentary called “Food for Thought” that is a collaboration between RWJBarnabas Health, Newark Beth Israel and the Greater Newark Community Advisory Board. This documentary examines the high levels of obesity and diabetes in Newark and shows how the lack of healthy foods can dramatically impact a person’s economic and social well-being.

Change Lab Solutions: Nourishing Health Equity: A New Jersey Health Care System Tackles Food Insecurity

“Health equity ensures that everyone, no matter who they are, receives access to the services and supports they need.”

Michellene Davis, Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, RWJBarnabas Health

Prioritizing Health Equity

Living conditions have a lot to do with health. Communities without access to healthy foods will invariably have greater health care needs than communities that can easily meet their nutritional requirements. A population saddled with discrimination requires more resources than populations without those obstacles.

The link between inequitable circumstances and unequal health outcomes may seem clear to today’s public health professionals, but until recent decades, health equity generally wasn’t a significant consideration in health care or public health policymaking.

“Health equity ensures that everyone, no matter who they are, receives access to the services and supports they need,” says Michellene Davis, executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer at RWJBarnabas Health System (RWJBH).

“In vulnerable communities that have traditionally been underserved, treatment may have been equal, but equal treatment is not always equitabletreatment.”

As New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive health care system, RWJBarnabas Health provides treatment and services to more than 5 million people each year. In 2017, RWJBarnabas launched a Social Impact and Community Investment (SICI) practice aimed at achieving socially engaged, economically thriving communities throughout the state.

Inspiring women immigrants at a panel discussion with New Women, New Yorkers

An inspiring evening with 4 accomplished women immigrants

To mark the completion of two spring series of the LEAD program and the graduation of 18 young women immigrants from the program, New Women New Yorkers held a roundtable discussion at the Mid-Manhattan New York Public Library (NYPL) on May 3. The panel consisted of four inspiring and successful immigrant women. The panel discussion was moderated by Mia Toftdahl Olesen, LEAD Program Coordinator, and Pamela Dicent, facilitator for the LEAD program, and the panelists consisted of women who immigrated to the US from countries as diverse as those of the LEAD program participants: Elena Walker, a fundraising professional from Russia; Linda Baron, a PhD student and entrepreneur from Colombia; Paula Freire Bastos, a business and finance consultant from Brazil; and Ruchika Muchhala, a documentary filmmaker from Indonesia and India.

Read more on The New Women New Yorkers website here.

International Health Women’s Coalition Event

A Witty Take on Arranged Marriage in India Spurs Conversation

On July 16, 2015, a diverse group of more than 40 Friends of IWHC gathered for a screening of The Great Indian Marriage Bazaar and a conversation with its director, Ruchika Muchhala.

The screening room, courtesy of IWHC’s neighbors Doctors Without Borders, was abuzz with Friends reconnecting and networking over Indian beer, kathi rolls, and other Indian-themed fare. The documentary—co-directed, produced and narrated by Ruchika Muchhala—is a witty and insightful film about arranged marriage in India. It includes interviews with matchmakers and others in the booming industry, following two brides-to-be in Mumbai. Ruchika shares her own experiences navigating various Indian matchmaking services and websites at the urging of her parents.

Read more on The International Women’s Health Coaltion website.

Citizen Journalism Workshop at Bay Street Film Festival (Canada)

Introduced by Dr. Steven Jobbitt, in this workshop Ruchika Muchhala, director of Beyond Bollywood, will lead participants in creating conversation and the transmedia element for stories and exploring what is citizen journalism. Building on her experience with Video Volunteers, WITNESS, Women Aloud Video Empowerment and other organizations she will discuss how to train and strategize distribution for community-made media.

See more at The Lakehead University’s website here

International Women’s Day 2015 – ‘The Great Indian Marriage Bazaar’ is Every South Asian 20-Something’s Life Story

Muchhala’s quirkiness adds to the unspoken truth of how most women feel at first when and if they ever attempt to create an online dating profile, and that is the start of her journey to what should have been an arranged marriage.

Every girl dreams of meeting and falling hopelessly, madly and deeply in love with her handsome Prince Charming. And, of course, not to mention, having a dream wedding and then living happily ever after with children. But what is the downfall of women who happen to be in their twenties and still waiting for their prince? The wrath of an arranged marriage happens. Read more here.

Ruchika Muchhala with Nadia Manzoor and Joya Dass at International Women’s Day Event, 2015
From left to right: Christina Aguilar, theatre producer and playwright; Diana Whitten, documentary filmmaker; Saida Ali, women’s rights activist; Muchhala; Nadia Manzoor, writer, actor and producer; Joya Dass, TV anchor and the event’s moderator. [Photo Credit: Trisha Sakhuja]