Plainfield Area YMCA – Community Garden/ Learn to Swim

Community Garden

Spring is finally here and we can begin to prepare our community garden. Shawn Frazier (our staff  leadership on this project) has completed his research on the most useful and conducive plants to grow. The plants will supply our food bank and and be an excellent teaching tool for our afterschool and camp participants. This year we will plant Tomato, Lettuce, Onions and

Carrots. For the next Three months we will:


April: Prepare soil for planting. Begin participant education sessions. Begin plantings

May: Begin garden maintenance program

June: First harvest begins, training summer camp participants

gardening pic (Cannon)

Learn to Swim

Our YMCA is committed to providing healthy physical activities to our young people before they develop serious life-long health problems that accompany obesity, including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, asthma and depression. Children who are overweight have a 70% chance of becoming overweight adults, leading to even more health problems – nationally, nearly 80% of diabetes patients are obese, while 70% of diagnosed cases of heart disease are related to obesity. Studies have also found that if overweight begins before 8 years of age, obesity in adulthood is likely to be more severe. Swimming is an ideal activity to fight obesity, because it can be done in a group, across ages, and is inherently appealing to most children.


As a result the Plainfield YMCA is continuing the initiative to teach every child in Plainfield how to swim. We are promoting our learn to swim program through the Plainfield Public Schools. The superintendant, principles and teaches have been very receptive to our learn to swim program. So far 4 out of the 10 elementary schools are participating in our program. We will continue our efforts to have all of the elementary school participating by September 2014.


Inviting Everyone to the Table

Hunger, nutritional challenges and urban food access might not be the first thought one has when thinking about the East Orange YMCA.  However, today’s East Orange Y and YMCA across the country are expanding community awareness of their role in addressing comprehensive health, wellness and prevention.  Increasingly becoming a voice for diabetes and obesity prevention and a convener in efforts to address significant community issues, the East Orange YMCA, with funding through a Shaping NJ grant, is in the second year on facilitating the Healthier East Orange Coalition.  The Coalition is taking a two pronged approach to encouraging healthier lifestyle choices among residents.  Increased physical activity is being promoted through the expansion of the East Orange H.I.K.E.  The Health Initiative to Keep Exercising is an East Orange Urban Trail marking historical and noteworthy sites within the City designed to encourage walking.  

In order to address the second priority, nutritional change, the Y has brought together community partners to engage in a dialog on healthy food accessibility in the East Orange community.  Understanding that lasting and effective change will only happen through the investment of key, city-wide leadership, the YMCA has invited a diverse group to the table.  East Orange YMCA is joined by the East Orange Health & Human Services, East Orange General Hospital, East Orange Police Department, East Orange Historic Society, East Orange Recreation Department, Clergy of East Orange, America’s Grow-A-Row, Shop Rite and the YMCA Director of Healthy Living.  

Through this ongoing collaboration, resources from various partners are being leveraged to facilitate the development and implementation of healthy meals and menus in support of children, families and seniors.  Discussions to expand effectiveness and diversify the initiative have led to additional invitations to WIC and the East Orange Food Program.  Both have voiced an interest in participating.

Most recent discussions were built on a survey of YMCA after-school children.  The survey addressed the children’s experience of being hungry, energy levels when hungry, their daily vegetable and fruit intake, and their ability to name diverse fruits and vegetable.  

Through this simple survey, the Coalition members were able to outline the next steps in developing basic nutritional education and exposure opportunities, potential menus and meal preparation ideas for families, and the need to engage agencies serving the most economically challenged members of the community.  Short-term awareness and incentive programs are being investigated and piloted in support of long-term environmental and policy.  School and YMCA based programing could help to overcome the obstacles to getting children to discover and consume more fruits and vegetables.  

The second biggest obstacle raised in the group was the concept that healthy food choices equate to higher cost.  Many East Orange residents believe that it is hard to eat healthy and not spend large amounts of money.  As a result of the Coalition’s efforts and conversations, menus and recipes are to be distributed to children and their families.  Healthy food preparation instruction and local supermarket incentives are also being investigated.

The East Orange YMCA, Shaping NJ and the East Orange community leaders involved in the Healthier East Orange Coalition are setting the table for change.  

St. Aloysius School is hopping with EXCITEMENT!

St. Aloysius School in Jackson NJ is excited!!!! Our collaboration with the YMCA through the grant from the RWJ Foundation to promote healthy nutrition, wellness and health among our school community is something we are excited about. “We are always looking for new and interesting ways to help our students”, Principal Elizabeth O’Connor said. “As a not for profit institution, we love finding creative ways to provide programs and when we were approached by the YMCA about a collaboration to help promote children’s health, we through it was a great idea. We are looking forward to going forward with this and involving the students to show them how to make better, healthier choices. Our aim here at St. Aloysius School is to educate our children and cultivate their growth spiritually, academically and physically. This venture allows us to continue that aim and have fun also!” she added.

An Oasis in Newark


The term “Food Desert” is often used to describe the food environment in Newark. It paints a grim picture of the scarcity and inaccessibility of food, most often healthy food in the city. Over the years supermarkets have come and gone, leaving residents with limited places to shop for food. However, despite this fact, there are some food stores in Newark that offer a great deal of healthier food options.

One Newark corner store that offers a variety of fresh produce is Nativo Deli & Grocery. One shopper mentioned that they “come to this store at least twice a week…it is walking distance from my place and they offer produce. Most of the stores around here do not, not as much as they do”. We’re happy to showcase one of the stores that is a part of the Healthy Corner Store movement in Newark.

Check out their Facebook page:


Exercise Equipment at DeHart Park is almost ready to Spring into Action!

Dehart Exercise Equip

The exercise equipment at DeHart Park in Maplewood, NJ has been installed! We just recently had our wood-chips added to the workout area and things are shaping up well!

We are currently waiting for a few consecutive days of sun with no rain to allow the concrete to completely settle in. Once the concrete settles, our walking track at the park will be upgraded immensely with 6 brand new pieces of exercise equipment.The pieces of equipment that have been installed include Ab Crunch, Pull up/ Dips Bar, Assisted Push-up bar, Cardio Stepper, Chest Press/ Back Press, Squat Press!

Just in time for Spring, residents of Maplewood will be able to get outside and stay active while enjoying the upcoming warm weather!

We will soon be announcing a date for a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the equipment! Stay Tuned!