The Shaping a Green Bergen Garden Grows Hot Stuff & Greens

Despite a series of unanticipated set-backs, the Shaping a Green Bergen Coalition was able to plant and harvest the first of its four student-constructed, raised garden beds!


Students Begin Working on Our First Raised Bed

Lettuce, mums and a variety of peppers – hot, red peppers included – were planted and have made their way into the lunch bowls of students and staff alike.  The lettuce has also proven to be a favorite of our local deer population, who we hope will be foiled by the installation of a fence before the next growing season!

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Lettuce, Mums & Hot Red Peppers

Garden growth is supported by composters and rain barrels provided by the Bergen County Utility Authority, one of our valued partners.  Students and staff installed both composters and rain barrels and monitor their use as a key component of sustainable gardening.

Rain Barrels

Sustaining the Garden with Rain Water

Rain water proved sufficient for our current garden, but ongoing expansion calls for the design of alternative methods to supply water during long dry spells.  In the coming year, the Shaping a Green Bergen Coalition will expand the garden by an additional three raised beds and finish construction and planting of its native species trailer-garden. Future plans include the development of alternative, environmentally friendly water sources, the installation of fencing and walkways between beds, and the creation of a wildflower meadow and a walking trail around the meadow — all with the intent of building new opportunities for the the Bergen Tech and Special Service School community to walk more and continue to develop healthy eating habits. 

Taking it to the street with the “Wilday Ride”!

10-7-15 RidersThe first Wednesday in October is always International Walk or Bike to School Day!  This time we took it to the street with the first annual “Wilday Ride”, a 4 mile road ride around the Grace Wilday School neighborhood!

Working again with the Grace Wilday Junior High School in Roselle, we added a new partner, the Roselle Police Department.  We took Safe Cycling education up a notch by conducting an actual road ride, on open streets around the school neighborhood.  The key was working with a very supportive Principle, Dr. Falaise, who’s “can do” attitude and cooperation of the Roselle Police Department made this possible.

Dr. Falaise is quick to say “YES” and find a way to make things happen.  This has made offering safe cycling programs at Grace Wilday most successful.  We started off with the A, B, C Quick Check to make sure bikes were road ready.  Next we made sure all the riders were supplied a helmet if they did not have one. Then we made sure the riders themselves were “road ready” with a few parking lot drills to cover the basics.  After screening roughly 20 riders, we were able to venture out into the streets, following a unique 2 mile road loop, (twice), which included almost all right hand turns, minimizing exposure to crossing traffic.  With a police escort, we obeyed traffic law by stopping at stop signs and staying to the right.  With a police escort, we also had the extra security of knowing we had motorist attention.

With International Walk or Ride to School Day established in the school calendar and a successful example of an event which encourages young students to ride their bike, we will work to build on this success and spread it to other schools.

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.