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!

The 2014 Community Gardens season begins…and so much more!

Spring is in the air, let’s get the garden started! Planning a new garden can be fun. The opportunity to act as a creator can be appealing but anyone who gardens knows it requires some preparation.

The transformation has begun: Earlier this week (Sarah Meyer, Oakside Garden Coordinator, Michael Hodges, Bloomfield Health Department) and myself Gina Behre (Bloomfield Health Department) successfully completed the work that needed to be done despite the morning chill that still hung in the air. Thankfully, the sun eventually peeked out and joined us for the rest of the day.


Sarah Meyer, Oakeside Garden Coordinator tilling the land...

Sarah Meyer, Oakeside Garden Coordinator tilling the land…

Due to an overwhelmingly response last year, we more than doubled our garden plots. First thing on the agenda was the design. The area was marked off for 8 additional plots. We now have a total of 14 plots for community gardeners. The next step was tilling the land and creating walkways in between and around the individual gardens. We couldn’t forget about the beautiful perennial garden along the perimeter. Carefully we hauled the mulch to the garden area NOT damaging the tulips and daffodils peeking through.

Our local broadcast station (Channel 35) stopped by for some footage. Our garden will be highlighted in the To Your Health Bloomfield program. The next episode will air in May. Keep a look out!

We are so excited about this project because community gardens allows families and individuals without land the opportunity to produce food and provide a place for gardeners to share their knowledge and skills. There are so many benefits in community gardens: Studies have shown that community gardeners and their children eat healthier diets and the exposure to green space can reduce stress and increase a sense of wellness and belonging. We think this is fantastic. Come join us!

In addition to the manual labor at the gardens this week, Sarah reviewed some of the garden rules that must be followed in order to maintain the land and respect the other gardeners. We discussed the water sprinkler system schedule, individual hose use, and proper cleaning and storage of the tools. She also touched on companion gardening. Because our gardens are all organic, garden pesticides are not allowed. However, growing certain plants next to each other can minimize insect attraction. Basil and marigolds planted next to tomatoes act as a natural repellent to ward off whitefly. Using strong smelling vegetables such as alliums (onion and garlic) and herbs (rosemary and basil) can confuse insects and prevent them from attacking your crop. This is good stuff!! Thanks, Sarah.

Through the ShapingNJ grant we will also be purchasing seedling from a local garden center to provide our gardeners with some delicious vegetables such as kale, lettuce, cucumbers, various herbs and tomatoes when the time is right.

Opening season is this Saturday 4/12/14 at the Oakside Cultural Center located at 240 Belleville Ave Bloomfield. All our gardeners must attend an orientation and meet with Sarah Meyer, Oakside Garden Coordinator.

If you are interested in securing a plot and you live in the Bloomfield area you can download an application and review the rules and regulations. Please NOTE the application fee does not apply to you. For more information please contact Sarah at 973-429-0960.

Community Partnership Yields Results


The Bloomfield Health Department has continued to work with the YMCA, Bike and Walk Montclair, Bloomfield Parks and Recreation, Eat.Play.Live..Better, and the United Way of Bloomfield to install Bike racks at various locations in Bloomfield. Funding the project will be provided by the Partners for Health Foundation in connection with ShapingNJ initiatives. “Our goal is to provide opportunities that encourage physical activity, a proven strategy for combating obesity and maintaining wellness according to Karen Lore, Director of Health and Human Services.

Michael Hodges, Vincent Nicosia and Gina Behre of the Bloomfield Health Department, Mike Sceurman from the Bloomfield Recreation Department, Washima and Jonathan from the YMCA and Hillary from the United Way recently met to continue the planning for the community bike rack project. We discussed surveying the town for bike racks, types of bike racks, placement and installation.

Michael Sceurman surveyed all the Bloomfield schools for bike racks and placement. Moving forward Mike will be installing new bike racks in all the Bloomfield parks. Hillary assisted in the bike rack survey throughout Bloomfield making some valuable observations that will help us along the way.

Hilary Michel of the United Way, disussing the survey that her intens will perform...

Hilary Michel of the United Way, disussing the survey that her intens will perform…Pictured also are Gina Behre, Mike Sceurman of the Recreation Departmment and Jonathan D’Arpa of the YMCA…

The ability to install bike racks in areas desirable to cyclists will foster efforts to make Bloomfield a bike friendly place. Placements of the racks are being considered at the following locations. Train Stations, Post Office, Bus Stop Corridors along Broad Street, Township Schools, Broughton Ave, areas on Bloomfield Ave.,between N. 15th and Broad Street.

Once again thanks for visiting our site. We’ll be also sharing more information on organic food, healthy eating and exercise too. Stay tuned for more updates.

Let’s P.L.A.A.Y!!

P.L.A.A.Y!! May and June events include:

1. “P.L.A.A.Y!! Choose My Plate Create a Healthy Dinner Plate Challenge”. Log on to, follow the guidelines and create a healthy dinner plate. Take a picture of your plate and send your recipes and picture to by April 21, 2014. Winners will be awarded on May, 2, 2014 at the “BCCAP HS/EHS Community Wellness, Nutrition, Health and Fitness Day” at the Human Service building located at 795 Woodlane Road, Mt. Holly, 9AM to 4PM.

2. Saturday, May 2, 2014 Calling all Men: Prepare and Present your “healthy” dish at the annual “Men are Cookin’ in South Jersey” at Burlington County Institute of Technology, 695 Woodlane Road, Mt. Holly, NJ sponsored by Pi Mu Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. 6PM to 9PM. For more information, email or call 641-715-3900 ext. 84436.  

3. Saturday, May 31, 2014 join us for Let’s Get Physical – WALK in the PARK”. In partnership with the Burlington County Health Department & Burlington County Park Department we invite everyone to join us for a 3 mile walk, bike ride, or run at Pennington Park in Delanco, New Jersey from 11AM to 3PM. The Sheriff Department will give away free bike helmets!

4. “P.L.A.A.Y!! ChooseMyPlate SUPERTRACKER Healthy Makeover Challenge” – log on to www.ChooseMyPlate or Track your meals and fitness during the months of April, May and June for a healthy makeover challenge. Email your name, picture, contact information, start weight, waist circumference, blood pressure and your fitness log to for each month by June 15, 2014 to be eligible to win a Fitness Basket! 

Diving Into Ideas


With ideas shaping up, The YMCA of Gloucester County and the Woodbury school district are ready to expand the healthy living experience to the children in the area.  The YMCA of Gloucester County and Woodbury school district are collaborating ideas in hopes of offering students the opportunity to be a part of an after-school aquatics program. This would benefit students who may not have the opportunity to learn how to swim and to also expand their knowledge of water safety.

Wanting to guarantee interest in this program the school district of Woodbury will be sending out a survey to the students and their parents… asking questions about the child’s swim level, interest in the program & also to find out if they own bathing suits.

To ensure that all of the students that are interested in participating in this after-school aquatics program are able to participate, we brainstormed ideas on what would steer children away from this program; with the main concern being … do these children have the means to participate in this program?

With over half of the students in the Woodbury school district on reduced lunches, we want to guarantee every student who participates has a bathing suit and towel. The YMCA of Gloucester County is planning a bathing suit and towel drive to help out families that may not be able to afford these items.  More information about the drive will be available to the public by the time of the YMCA of Gloucester County’s Healthy Kids Day on April 26th.

If you are interested in donating a bathing suit and/or towel, please contact: Tish Davis,