The U.S. veterans enrolled in the Rutgers Veterans Environmental Technology and Solutions (VETS) program invite the community to celebrate their healthy-foods harvest and fish exchange program.

It all takes places at the first-ever “Let’s Grow Newark” festival, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 25 at the VETS facility, 555 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Newark. The event is free and open to the general public.

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There will be tours of the greenhouse and community garden, music, games, crafts, healthy snacks and other attractions for the entire family, as well as representatives from other community groups working in Newark.

The Rutgers VETS program is a groundbreaking initiative launched in May 2014 to reduce immediate health risks to people who eat fish caught from the Passaic River, while empowering local, unemployed veterans with new green job skills. It is a unique collaboration between Rutgers University, the Metropolitan Baptist Church Reassertion Community Development Corporation and the Lower Passaic River Cooperating Parties Group, comprising 60 companies working together to improve the condition of the Lower Passaic River.

On June 20, the VETS class launched the first-ever fish exchange in the United States. The Rutgers VETS participants raise healthy fish to exchange with contaminated fish that some anglers are taking from the river as food. The waste from the fish is used to provide nutrients (nitrogen) to vegetables growing in this connected system.

The VETS program donates each week approximately 250 heads of lettuce grown in the greenhouse to the food pantry of the Willing Heart Community Center, located on the site. With summer here, the VETS also provide tomatoes and seasonal fresh vegetables.

The 2014 graduating VETS class has moved on to higher education or employment. Some have started their own landscaping businesses, others have enrolled in college or remained with the program as staff or volunteers.

Learn more by emailing or calling 973-732-2383. You can visit the VETS program at www.rutgersvets.orgor follow the group at