Gardens Growing in Camden

Camden Community Charter is in the process of adopting its wellness policy. They are reviewing the wellness policy adopted in one of its affiliate schools in Chester, PA and are making revisions to certain sections of the policy. One of its new components to add is a Farm to School Program. Due to the school’s inability to build a garden, they have explored alternate ways to grow produce. We’ve been introduced to a mobile edible garden unit by Green Living Technologies. It is an indoor/outdoor, portable garden unit laboratory for use in schools, classrooms or rooftops. Meetings with their food service provider, Aramark, will begin in August to discuss how produce and herbs, once harvested, can be introduced and served in the cafeterias or classrooms. Urban Promise Ministries has seen much growth in its urban garden this summer. Its new food service department is currently preparing for the upcoming school year with plans to incorporate as much produce and herbs from the garden as they can. Students can look forward to having taste tests and new ingredients fresh from their garden come September! We also plan to explore ways to celebrate Farm to School month in October! In addition, the Wellness Committee has finalized its school wellness strategy (policy) and is ready to present to leadership.

camden garden

Urban Promise Garden







Salad Party for summer camp students at Urban Promise!

Salad Party for summer camp students at Urban Promise!

Together For Health


The Healthier East Orange Coalition goal is to help reduce obesity in our constituents through an environmental change initiative. We realize that often times people do not realize the portions or the right food groups to eat. We are distributing posters of the Food Pyramid – Food Group serving and Amounts to various organizations and schools to educate our children and families. How many times have we gotten up from the table and said ” I can’t eat another bite”, or ” wow I’m stuffed”? We are also distributing a ‘What Makes a Serving’ poster to the community.
The Healthier East Orange Coalition has come together for a healthier You…Food Servings (11x17) (2)Food Pyramid Flier (2)

Prayer Walk-Taste Of Missions


  We gathered at a park in center city on Sunday morning as part of our Taste Of Missions with the intention of living in community with the surrounding families. While we focused our prayers on partnering with God and the Holy Spirit to be alive in this neighborhood and bring safety and peace to everyone, there was a free soccer clinic going on as well. I don’t know how many workers to neighbors there were but I do know that friendships were made,  trust was earned,  fun was had and Jesus was revealed. These neighbors came out for the fun even though it’s a neighborhood known for sleeping in on Sunday morning. As we walked around the 2 mile loop surrounding the neighborhood we met new neighbors and invited them to the 3 upcoming Camp Grace dates. Camp Grace #1 will take place in the exact location of the Soccer Clinic with the use of the school that shares the property.  Camp Grace #2 will be in the nearby city of Millville and Camp Grace #3 will be at the LFA Church offices in Vineland.

Some members of this church have had their own community time inviting the neighboring children to garden in a community garden,  join them for dinner and even craft times.

The Challenges of Providing Access to Fitness

In our mission to increase fitness access, the Raritan Valley Y has been a proponent of shared use, mutually beneficial agreements, and open access with private fitness facilities, especially when this can help teach children to swim and address chronic health issues that may be mitigated by exercise.

In our quest to serve the fitness needs of our community, some of our primary obstacles include:

  • Difficulty of finding private entities that are willing to share/lease/donate fitness or pool use.
  • Limited availability and high cost of renting/leasing.
  • Reluctance toward dealing with underserved populations.
  • Insurance and liability concerns.
The RVY fitness center is available to populations that need it most... provided we make the right connections.

The RVY fitness center is available to populations that need it most… provided we make the right connections.

Our particular Shaping NJ grant included a plan to partner with a city health clinic that was starting a diabetes management program. The Y would provide free and open fitness center access to those enrolled. Since the inception of the grant, the health clinic has closed. But the mission lives on.

The Y staff has gone to St. Peter’s Hospital in New Brunswick to seek a new partner, and identify low-income city residents with chronic disease whose symptoms could be lessened with regular exercise. While the process of providing fitness to the underserved is difficult, we are making important progress in this area:

  • We are opening important channels of communication with hospital administration, and have an important ally in Dr. Meena Murthy, Chief of Endocrinology for the Thyroid and Diabetes Center at St. Peter’s University Hospital.
  • We are gaining recognition and visibility among the community that needs our service.
  • We are seen as part of the solution to a complex social problem.
  • We know that, through fitness and exercise, we have the ability to provide our community with a better quality of life.

Brain Storming, Programming…What Comes Next?


At the Hamilton Community Garden construction is almost coming to an end. The garden beds have been built, the mulch has been laid. The physical activity and exercise equipment has been installed and awaits final touches. Masonry work continues on the amphitheater and the last brush strokes are being made to the beautiful hand painted garden mural.

As community partners sat together last evening at the weekly garden meeting, the topic of community involvement was discussed. The garden and recreational area has been constructed and now the question is how to have the local residents “buy in” so to speak and use the garden and equipment for what it offers. Who will maintain maintenance of the garden following the last steps of construction? What is the right way to entice their participation? Community partners brainstormed and several ideas were thrown around. The Hamilton United Methodist Church, who hosts the garden’s construction invited partners to their monthly fellowship meeting and weekly bible group to reach out to church members. Garden stewards, on loan from the Richard Stockton College of NJ, will be assisting in reaching out to local groups such as PAL, the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and Princesses, an Atlantic City based young women’s group.

Again, partners will come together with those that have responded to these efforts and more program planning will occur. This brainstorming activity has paved the way to seeking out new gardeners and those that will benefit from the Hamilton Community Garden.

Also that evening agreement was met that a dedication ceremony will be held on site at the Hamilton Community Garden on Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 from 5-7pm. Atlantic City Mayor

What is the saying? “If you build it, they will come?” Working on a community project, such as a community garden, has proven that it takes a lot more than muscle and labor to create a successful program. Partners meet on a weekly basis to continue discussion around programming and needed maintenance of the garden.