August and September Wrap Up

The month of August got away from us and so we’ve decided to condense two updates into one lovely update on the progress we’ve made with our ShapingNJ grant. We are happy to report that we treated our volunteers from the Newark YMCA and Vicinity to an end of the summer cookout as a thank you for all their hard work in helping us set up Earthboxes and prepping the location of our third garden site. We’ve since bid adieu to our Summer volunteers, and have welcomed Fall volunteers into the current garden sites. They’ve assisted us in planting broccoli, lettuce and collard greens in our Earthboxes. Never fans of wastefulness, we’ve strategically utilized our Earthboxes in a staggered configuration, so as to provide the greatest yield for our community come harvest time.

September brought with it cooler temps and one of our proudest projects, the addition of a third garden site, complete with a “Community Performance Area” and a Yoga Garden. This labor of love involved much planning behind the scenes, to which we owe a wealth of gratitude to our Director of Development, Wanda Upshaw. She’s always been the guiding hand and light of our gardening endeavors, but the pinnacle of her achievement was the event Prodigal Sons and Daughters Redirection Services, Inc. held on Saturday, September 20th.

Blessed with good weather and even better friends, PSD welcomed nearly 100 volunteers including: Prodigal Alums, Representatives from the City of Newark, The New Jersey Tree Foundation, Home Depot and even the youngest tots and tweens from our Central Ward to fill our neighborhood with newly planted trees! Our gracious friends at Home Depot also “set the stage” for our Community Performance Area.

Guided of course by our Master Gardener, Walter Barry, our little piece of Newark was filled with helping hands armed with shovels (that even our littlest volunteers could hold) to dig deep holes for our new trees to be set into. Up and down our streets, dirt was everywhere! But also, there were smiles for days and after a long day of digging, and weeding, and transplanting our little piece of the Central Ward of Newark was changed for the better.  Even with the threat of rain looming on the horizon, Saturday’s weather held and we met so many eager and helpful hands that we are still so moved with the utmost gratitude.

Our continued partnership with ShapingNJ has allowed us to impact our community in immeasurable ways.  Providing produce to our community members is something we always look forward to, but Saturday’s event allowed us to create deeper connections with the friends and families that we serve. When people feel a sense of ownership with something, they’re more likely to take pride in it, and want to protect it. This new garden site, complete with the beautiful stage will allow us to leave a lasting impression on our community, and we cherish the opportunity to continue the mission of shaping the next generation of New Jersey’s future to live healthy and happy!


Shaping Red Bank is comprised of a number of community organizations and groups. The Borough of Red Bank, Community YMCA, Shaping Red Bank Coalition, Red Bank Mayors Wellness Campaign, JBJ Soul Kitchen Foundation and the Monmouth County Regional Health Commission all participated in this grant.  For the physical activity portion, we are planned on expanding the community walking paths in Red Bank.  We worked with the Department of Recreation and the Department of Public Works to expand mapping, signage and route designation by use of maps provided in both digitally and in printed form.  We were unable to produce the signage or the mapping but we have worked with the Community YMCA to provide a limited number of one month family memberships to the families of students who participated in healthy cooking classes held by the JBJ Soul Kitchen and as prizes for the upcoming Family Fun Night in Red Bank Borough.

The Red Bank Mayors Wellness Campaign had health screenings for the employees and has hosted an outdoors Yoga class since April. Facebook and the municipal website will be used to highlight activities.

In partnership with the Community YMCA, we worked with the JBJ Soul Kitchen to educate and inform school aged children from Red Bank High School about healthy for choices and offer discounted coupons to participate in exercise classes at the Community YMCA.

Red Bank currently has a Farmer’s Market in the Spring and Fall. The market is privately run and operated.  Our goal is to encourage and promote access to this market and to encourage healthy and affordable food choices at this market.  We were not able to partner with them this year but our talks with the management of the Farmers Market are encouraging and they will be incorporated into our next grant.  We want to encourage vendors to accept SNAPS/food stamps.

The Red Bank Mayors Wellness Campaign, Shaping Red Bank, the Red Bank Department of Recreation, Soul Kitchen and the Community YMCA all have a diverse and positive working relationship. This coalition have been very successful in their collaborations and completed community projects. We have committed partners who will move Shaping Red Bank forward to the next steps in helping to provide the environment and support tor a healthier community.


Fall Back Into Fitness~

As the warm summer air disappears and the schools busses flood the streets, children and families are preparing for an exciting new school year! As the school year begins, we are thrilled to see our implementation of the CATCH curriculum is now in full force throughout the entire St. Aloysius School. The Y staff was so excited to pass the torch to the St. Aloysius team this September. We were thrilled to have built such a wonderful relationship with the school, students and families in Jackson this year. St. Aloysius is prepared to implement the CATCH curriculum during the school day, throughout their gym and health classes. More students will be given the tools to make healthier eating choices and engage in healthier lives through the CATCH curriculum. Our Y team will continue to offer our ZUMBA classes throughout the school year, as the students, staff and Y team have had so much fun, dancing through fitness. The school has begun to create a Wellness Committee that will engage their students, teachers, administration and parents in making wiser, healthier decisions with regards to their own wellness for years to come! So many new and creative ideas have sprung into action after our budding relationship with the Y and St. Aloysius School. They are looking forward to creating a garden in their courtyard, Zumbathon’s and Family Fun Day’s at the Y!!!! It has been a create collaboration, and the Y is looking forward to working together for a healthier, fit and FUN future!


Urban Promise Moving Along

It is really rewarding to hear the positive responses around the wellness strategy that we wrote this spring. One of the major efforts is to increase the amount and frequency of physical activity throughout the day in every classroom – with the idea of supplementing what our one gym teacher (for 13 grades) is able to provide. He and I met with the elementary school teachers during a staff meeting last week to brainstorm. At first I sensed hesitancy – as in, “are you really expecting me to add another item to my to-do list?” though of course none of this was voiced. But as we discussed the research demonstrating increased knowledge retention and improved behavior when one minute of movement is added each hour, I saw light-bulbs going on around the room. “We could have cards with different movements on them that students could take turn leading!” “Movement could be a reward – like dancing at the end of the day!” The next thing you knew we had great buy-in.

I ran into the first grade teacher this week – she said she had the kids moving every hour and her students were loving it. She noticed less fidgeting and more eyes on her while she taught. In the high school the principal, who was on the wellness committee, is finding volunteers to teach health to free up our gym teacher to teach gym all year long to all four grades. Now we have retired dieticians and our social work intern teaching health, which gives great opportunities for broader exposure and new relationships, while our high school students will be out playing sports every week the whole year. This strategy that we worked so hard on is really paying off, raising awareness and bringing intention to healthier lifestyles for everyone at UrbanPromise.

Written by: Rebecca H. Bryan, MSN, APN, Director, UrbanPromise Wellness Center

blog:    twitter: @up_wellness

Participant Statistics and Fine Weather Fun

In August we decided to learn a little more about the people we are helping. We developed and small survey which we handed out one Saturday before we let the group jump in and grab their fruits, vegetables and breads.
The results reflected the average age of participants to be 28 years old (this does not include children), the average family size is 3.9, and the average annual income for a family is between $10,000 and $20,000.
Additionally, our results reflected that families felt they saved on average about $39.00 per week when utilizing of our bread and produce distribution program. Most families attend weekly. The data collected will be used to develop and implement programs and services that will be beneficial to the population we are serving.

This August we took advantage of the fantastic weather and offered some fun activities for children outside. One of our volunteers stepped this month stepped up to do fitness fun activities and games with the children that attend the weekly distribution program. They did everything from simple calisthenics to school recess games. It was fun and easy for all.
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This September we are looking to expand our program beyond just Saturday distribution at the Flemington Baptist Church. We will be contacting other local churches to build new relationships and hopefully expand our outreach.