Setting Sights on a Fit Future

As our grant cycle concludes, our excitement continues to build about all of the possibilities for a healthy community in Morristown.  Our survey is complete, we have starting to build our walking path, and we now have a better sense of what local residents want and need to see in order to be healthier.

Our survey had 133 respondents comprised of residents from the area senior centers, parents from children who attend programs at the Morristown Neighborhood House, and participants in Atlantic Health’s Family Health Center. Participants primarily lived in Census Tracts 043500 and 043800, which have media household incomes of $47,394 and $75,309 respectively. Of those who responded, 39.4% identified themselves as Hispanic, 30% as African-American, 27% as White or Caucasian, and 3.9% as Asian.

While 58% of survey respondents said they make time to exercise regularly, those that don’t feel that it is expensive, or that they need additional support. We’re now brainstorming programming ideas for the redesigned garden that include free classes on fitness, walking, yoga and more.

Of those that exercise, 70% said they walk, so we’re confident that our new walking path at the community garden will be beneficial to these residents.

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We began work on the walking path at the Early Street Community garden this summer. We had a landscaper come in to remove stumps and fences. They also cleared the roadway, graded it and then we had stone dust delivered and flattened it out to create the start of a path. The pathway is 3/4 of the way done. The other part will begin this November after we clear out the existing community garden plots to overhaul the entire space.

Also in the survey, we were surprised to find that 73% of residents said they eat fresh vegetables every day. Of those who said they’re not satisfied with their shopping choices for fresh vegetables, 55% say they aren’t happy with the price of available vegetables.

We also detIMG_20150923_125950ermined that 92% of respondents do not grow their own food — a low-cost way to obtain vegetables — and of those who don’t, 59% said it was because they don’t have space to grow.

This indicates that our garden expansion — to double the number of garden plots from 42-94 — will be a major boost to our community. We look forward to continuing our project this fall into next summer, when we hope to reveal the first phase of the garden redesign.

We are grateful for NJHCN’s support!

Celebrating Success with YES!

The Catholic Charities Diocese of Metuchen YES Program celebrated with the other wonderful grantees at the Lessons Learned Meeting held on Friday September 25th at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Representing the program was Krista Glynn, Service Area Director Child Care; Irish Givens, Site Supervisor YES School Age Program; and Marlon Osuna, Family Worker for YES Early Learning Center. The day was filled with exciting information and networking with an opportunity to display our successes through the grant.

Looking back at the activities, policy changes, and events the program was able to implement is astounding! In addition, the teamwork and collaborations developed will be continuous. On behalf of New Brunswick, we are appreciative to have had this opportunity to provide additional outreach to families in the community and we look forward to continuing our focus towards healthy strong communities for the future!

Here some pictures to highlight our display and the day at RWJF.ShapingNJWrapUpCelebrationYES9.151 ShapingNJWrapUpCelebrationYES9.152 ShapingNJWrapUpCelebrationYES9.153 ShapingNJWrapUpCelebrationYES9.154

Building on the Momentum

As a final wrap-up, we wanted to let everyone know where our projects have gone and where they are going. We have utilized our grant for four different programs:

Community Garden: The children loved learning about planting and caring for a garden. We didn’t just give them a fish, we taught them how to fish, how to provide healthy vegetables for themselves and their families. They learned how to utilized what they grew, tried new veggies they never heard of before and shared ways to prepare the garden delights!  We plan to continue and grow the garden, there are two other gardens in town which we would like to partner with to expand our reach.

Play Streets: We were able to secure two partners for Play Streets, both Loman’s Auto Sales and Services in Woodbridge as well as Hot 97 Radio have become sponsors of Play Streets and have helped us to create a wonderful year end play street event.  We do hope to continue this program next year.

Farmers Market: Our farmers market was a huge success, providing fresh produce to our community particularly the seniors and those on SNAP have enjoyed having the market here. We plan to close the market at the end of October and do hope that the farmers and patrons will return next year.

Teen Center: Our teen center will resume this winter to again help get teens off the streets and into the Y to exercise and socialize with their friends. Given the sheer volume of teens that arrive for teen center (500+), we need help!  The cost of enough staff to ensure everyone’s safety is of utmost importance.  Without the ability to staff the Y, we would not be able to continue the program. The younger teens are excited to try to help us raise funds to keep this vital program going by creating a video for  a Crowdfunding campaign.  We do hope that we are able to raise enough funds to continue the program until the next grant cycle.

If you build it, they will come

The expansion of the walking path at the Salem County Recreation Park is complete! The expanded path is a half of mile long and ADA complaint. It loops around softball and soccer fields along a wooded tree line. Walkers have been out in full force enjoying the expanded walking path.


The installation of two exercise stations, a bike rack, and marker signs are expected to be installed in the beginning of October. Improvements to the parks such as benches, shrubs, trees, and a fence are in the future plans for this park. Position of equipment

Improving our parks will provide physical activity opportunities and can help people of all ages lead a more active lifestyle. According to the, in Salem County only 82 percent of the population has adequate access to exercise opportunities.  The NJ state average is 96 percent and the US top performers are at 92 percent. Investing in our parks and open space is an investment in our community.

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In 2015, Salem County overall health ranking improved #18 out of 21 NJ counties.  A small improvement from the 2014  ranking of #19. We will take it! Thank you Shaping NJ and the other organizations that invest in improving the health of Salem County.

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The Salem County Health Department is committed to promoting healthy lifestyles.

It’s Official

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The Healthy Corner Store Initiative has been officially implemented!!  Tobacco King and Friendly News & Food officially kicked off the initiative yesterday.  The schools (Carteret & Fairview) were provided with signage & flyers too in time for Back to School Night.  This way parents and students alike were made aware of the initiative’s pic9 store pic7

As the healthier products were placed into the stores, there was enthusiasm from customers that were present.  One customer was truly pleased about the availability of fresh fruits at Tobacco King.  She exclaimed to the owner upon the foods being placed onto the counter, “Mahesh, I’m so happy you have bananas!  I would definitely want a banana some mornings.  Oh, and you have apples too!”  The owners seemed to have a sense of pride about their participation too, indicated by the huge smiles on their faces.  The challenges occurred mostly with store financial limitations, which limited some stores to a single vendor, which in turn limited the availability of healthier food items.  In spite of this, the following items were introduced into the stores:

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  • Tobacco King introduced whole fruits, such as the aforementioned bananas and apples.  Sixty four percent of fifth grade Carteret students surveyed wanted fruits in the store.  Sliced fruits were most preferred, so individual snack packs of sliced apples were introduced too.  Dried fruit was introduced also by the addition of raisins.  (Unsalted nuts & seeds, which a large percentage of Carteret students surveyed wanted, were unavailable by this store’s vendor).
  • Friendly News & Food introduced single-serving cartons of skim milk, individual snack packs of sliced apples (fifty-one percent of students surveyed at Fairview wanted sliced fruit) and individual snack packs of baby carrots.  We also highlighted healthier foods already available at the store.

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Although there is still a long road ahead with this initiative (sustaining it & increasing the # of stores participating in it), everyone’s cooperative effort in getting it to this point has been invaluable!!!