Shaping Irvington to launch Play Street events in the summer!

Shaping Irvington coalition members got together on March 17th for the first meeting of the year to discuss the details of planning and execution of nutrition and physical activity strategies to promote community health.Members discussed success stories, lessons learned and challenges from last year Open / Play Streets program to promote physical activities in the community. It was decided to boost this momentum to raise awareness of the need for children to be more physically active by providing basketball, soccer, volley balls, badminton, jump rope, hula hoops, rock climbing and healthy snacks during this will start a journey for kids that can last their entire future.

Open/Play Street events create two to three blocks of safe, fun, car-free space and featured locally organized programming for people to enjoy. Play Streets provide recreational opportunities aimed at youth in Irvington Township’s neighborhoods that currently lack adequate resources and access to recreational programs. We organized one event in each ward of the township during Summer 2013.  Township’s Mayor, council members, block association members, local community leaders and Township’s employees from the Recreation Department, Fire Department, Health Department and Police Department all come out and play with youth and community members to promote healthy physical activities. Programming includes free public health screening, free public health educational literature and nutrition information as well as physical activities targeted towards youth and families. All participants enjoy healthy food, fresh fruits, juices, nuts, granola bars, green salads, smoothies, lemonades and water.

Play Streets will be once a month event on Saturday’s from 11am-2pm starting in early summer running through September. This year two indoor events in the Fall will be organized to promote physical activities.  Councilwoman Ms. Frederic will reach out to the other council members from each ward to pick the dates, location of street and mobilize the community members to participate.

Community and family advocates from the Irvington Schools suggested to reach out the PTA parent members. We will contact the parent coordinators from each public school who will happily work with us for walkability and bikeability assessment focusing on the establishment of safe walking routes to public schools. It was decided that the first planning and training meeting with Meadowlink and Rutgers University’s Voorhees Transportation Center should be in the end of April in order to develop Township wide pedestrian crash mapping.

Members from Community gardens club and University Avenue Middles School’s garden share the success stories from last year gardening projects and requested for additional support in the form of topsoil, seeds and gardening tools. Lead persons from community and school gardens were advised to prepare the list of required items which will be purchased with this year’s Florence Avenue School’s garden supplies. One of the coalition members from the PTA group from Florence Avenue School mentioned that the PTA will be having a monthly meeting on March 20th and our team members are welcome to reach out to the other parents, students and school staff members.

“Adopt the bodega” program to promote the healthy option availability for the community was discussed and decided that we will adopt two more corner grocery store this year near Berkley Ter. Elementary School and Madison Avenue School.

Florence Ave. Elementary School garden moving along!

The students, teachers, parents and community members in attendance were pleased to hear of the plans for the school garden during the meeting on Thursday evening 3-20-2014 at the cafeteria of Florence Avenue Elementary School. Majority of students and parents in the meeting committed to participate and help sustain this exciting new and improved gardening project at their school. With the help of The Master Gardeners of Essex County, Rutgers Cooperative Extension expert, school principal, staff members, parents and students, the suitable garden site was selected in the parking lot area near the water hoes of the school building. It was decided to develop a health council, gardening club in the school under the leadership of two teachers, which will consist of students, teaching staff members, custodian team members and parents.

Fran Kroeckel from The Master Gardeners of Essex County, Rutgers Cooperative Extension who is a key lead person for the Irvington community and school gardens projects, agreed again to provide hands on training in the garden and in classrooms on the Garden Curriculum to teachers and children.

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