Bloomfield Health and Human Services is bringing our message of the Health Corner Store Initiative to the community.  We have partnered with William Paterson Nursing Students, Chris Balbin and Adrian Nwosu, seen here leading 5th graders at Carteret and Watsessing Elementary School.  They created this presentation to help students understand how they can make healthier choices when shopping at the corner store before or after school.

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The students were engaged and had lots of questions.  Some wanted to know the difference between these popular sports drinks and other juice beverages.  Others wanted to know what is in tonic and seltzer water.  We talked about the increased amounts of sugar in most beverages, and the concept of “empty calories.” Then defined for the students what a nutrient is and how, as health-conscious consumers, we want to eat food that offers the most nutrient bang for the buck.  We listened to the children tell us about their knowledge of and how they have learned to properly read food labels.  We discussed the reasons for having healthier choices – decreasing chronic diseases like diabetes, to maintain a healthy weight, and to improve their performance and focus in school and sports.


Afterwards, we had the students complete a brief survey to get a better idea of what they are more likely to purchase, and we were able to clear up some misconceptions of what healthy is.  Some thought that fruit flavored gelatin snacks are healthy – NOT.  How about dried mango, cranberries, or raisins.  Nuts – get the low salt or no salt option.  Juice – check that label.


What an awesome day at the school with the young ones!!

A Community Affair

What an amazing community we have surrounding us here in National Park! Since the inception of Project Greenway we have had the privilege of working hand-in-hand with community members like Annemarie Henry, Janet Butler, Jim Butler, K’Leen Cucugliello and Aimee Hart who have literally gotten their hands dirty with the students. We have had great support from Mayor Mark Cooper, Boro Administrator Josh Pitts and National Park Boro Employees Jimmy Walker, Jeff Baker, Jim O’Brien, Mike Girouard, Chuck Frew and Jeff Baker. And of course we continue to be so thankful for our relationship with Luanne Hughes at Rutgers Cooperative Extension and Brian Quilty at FoodCorps. These individuals have been instrumental in helping the fantastic staff of National Park School make Project Greenway such a success.

As we approach the summer months we are excited about the bounty that is sure to come from our garden. It will be a challenging time as we will need volunteers to help with the harvest. However, we have no doubt that volunteers will help our garden stay alive! We are looking forward to working with Cross County Connections to complete a community needs assessment. We will also have the much needed crosswalks installed near student dismissal locations to ensure safer passage home. A busy season for sure but an exciting time as we implement change!

A special congratulations to our logo contest winner 6th Grade student Steven Weller!



Shaping Elizabeth’s organizational strategy supports the way we work together to complete the goals of our projects.  The Active Living Work Group is leading our Play Streets project and Access to Healthy Foods is leading the Corner Store Initiative. Due to this structure we have had the ability to engage many partners in order to achieve success.

Krishna Garlic, Director of Health & Human Services, City of Elizabeth is the leader of the Active Living Work Group and along with Michael Johnson, Director of Association Initiatives, The Gateway Family YMCA have been working together with several organization to plan and implement 3 Play Streets in Elizabeth.  Krishna’s leadership has led to connections with all 3 council people in each Ward who not only support the events with their time and presence, all have also agreed to match a bicycle donation for a raffle.  WellCare Health Plans would donate 3 bikes if we could find a match.  The council people also were instrumental in finding locations in each of their Ward areas.

The Community Food Bank of New Jersey will donate water and fresh fruit for each event and each partner is donating water as well. The City of Elizabeth has agreed to support the event through staffing, police and emergency personal as well as shirts for the event.  It is our hope that Mayor Bollwage will attend.

The goal of the Play Streets is to engage both adults and children to get active.  In that spirit we will use a “bingo card” for event participation that can be submitted for raffle prizes for both adults and children.  We want to see everyone participate.

Attached is our Play Streets flyer. Shaping Elizabeth Playstreets

Jonathan Phillips, Executive Director, Groundwork Elizabeth and Karen Ensle, Family & Community Educator, Rutgers Cooperative Extension are Leaders of our Healthy Foods Work Group.  At the first organizational meeting the team reviewed the list of stores provided by the City of Elizabeth Health Officer Mark Colicchio and decided on parameters for engagement: size of store (smaller square footage locations), willingness of owners to change, location of store (near a school or housing authority) and current inventory.  Each participant agreed to visit stores, take a picture and asses current offerings. The next planning meeting is scheduled for May 27th, 7-8 stores will be selected for further engagement.

Both projects are progressing.  The Play Streets Program has moved at a quick pace due to the leadership and support of the City of Elizabeth. The biggest challenge is deciding on the need for people to sign a waiver or release to attend the event which may limit children participating alone.  The Corner Store Initiative is progressing and now that the Healthy Food Work Group has assumed leadership implementation of initiative is off and running. Time is always our biggest challenge.

Shaping Elizabeth is very fortunate to have the City of Elizabeth’s support for both of these projects.  The resources and connections that have been facilitated have lead to increased support from City of Elizabeth Council People as well as city services.  The Mayor of Elizabeth supports both of these projects in a large part due to the advocacy for our work by Ms. Garlic.  In the future, this should prove invaluable when moving to sustainable policy and environmental changes.

“Don’t let the fear of falling keep you from flying”

Our projected expansion of the walking path has been stalled by Wetlands. Salem County features more than 34,000 acres of meadow and marshland including tidal and freshwater wetlands. The question of wetlands was raised from the “wet” condition  of the surveyed areas of the proposed walking path.  We are currently working with the engineers of the Salem County to apply for special permission to build on the protected area.  Unfortunately, this is a slow process and we may need to rework the plan.

The planned walking path is along the tree line of the park. It’s very scenic and beautiful.  The ideal location to walk and take in nature. The tree line however is where the wetlands start and the regulations require a 50 foot buffer zone. A visit to the park is planned for next week to scout out an alternative location to lay the walking path. Ideas for the  layout of the path are looping around the softball fields and soccer fields.

Our partners have been great with helping the Salem County Health Department with these challenges. We are proceeding forward with the expansion plans despite the wetland issues. Construction  of the path is planned to begin in June while the weather is still ideal to lay the asphalt. The bike racks and exercise equipment are expected to be delivered in July.

Positive press announcing our grant award.

Positive press announcing our grant award.

Creating Partnerships to Build Success

The power of partnership is proving to be a key factor in building success for Healthier Somerset’s ShapingNJ projects to combat obesity and associated diseases and promote healthier lifestyles.

We chose farmers’ markets in our three target communities of Bound Brook, Manville, and Somerville as vehicles to promote affordable, healthy choices for local produce.  We are coordinating with downtown management associations, vendors, and municipal departments that coordinate the markets to accept vouchers to purchase healthy items at the markets, and we are looking into avenues of distribution for the vouchers.

We’ve made great progress in scheduling our nutrition seminars.  In Bound Brook, we’re collaborating with the borough’s Recreation Department to host one seminar and a local school may host an additional workshop.  In Manville we’ll hold the seminar at the public library, and in Somerville at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

The seminars will demonstrate how easy and inexpensive it can be to make smoothies and salads.  Zufall Health Centers and EmPoWER identified a nutritionist from NJ SNAP who will present the seminars at no charge.

We’ve had opportunities to create new partnerships throughout this process.  The Somerset County Food Bank Network donated 150 thermal lunch bags that we will give to our seminar attendees.  The bags were donated to the Food Bank Network by Sanofi, the global pharmaceutical company that is headquartered in Somerset County.

The second part of our project focuses on adoption of the “Complete Streets” policy in the three towns to encourage safe and accessible accommodations for all users of existing and future pedestrian, bicycle, and transit facilities.  Creating sound public policy is never easy, and municipal departments and elected bodies don’t always make decisions with the speed or predictability that we would like to see.  Our previous policy outreach through Healthier Somerset and RideWiseTMA has established relationships with local governing officials and staff who have brought in additional municipal departments and entities involved in the decision to adopt a “Complete Streets” resolution.  We’re glad that we can be part of the education process on the benefits of “Complete Streets”, and we’re optimistic about moving the policy forward in our three towns.