In March of 2014, the YMCA of Paterson set out to assist faith-based congregations and communities within the city of Paterson, New Jersey. The goal was to provide physical and nutrition based programming once a week for three hours. Within this time period, activities included Healthy Eating workshops, Coordinated Approach To Child Health (CATCH) activities, and general fitness and aquatics programs. With 60.7% of New Jersey’s population being overweight and 23.8% obese, according to the CDC website, the YMCA felt it was necessary to help put a large dent into the obesity epidemic prevalent within the Paterson community.
We began our programming with St. Luke’s Baptist Church and outreached with Wholelife Community Church from the neighboring township of Totowa. 33 individuals were introduced to CATCH and to the importance of food selection and food timing and participated in swimming, basketball, and fitness activities. With the end of the school year and the onset of the hot summer months, scheduled family vacations and weekend trips slowed down attendance.
To not lose momentum, we incorporated the YMCA Summer Camp and its 125 participants into the program. We changed our internal policy by introducing the YMCA’s Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards. 45 minutes of physical activity for four days out of the week with limited television and computer usage was also implemented. Collaborating with the Paterson Task Force allowed for every student to be provided a meal that consisted of one protein, one fruit, one vegetable, and an occasional starch. Furthermore, the Rutgers Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development Program spent the summer months teaching the many different aspects of healthy eating such as the My Plate Icon, new to most campers, the importance of family meal time, and how more fruits and vegetables can be included in their diet.
Understanding that healthy eating and increased physical movement must be put into practice, our goal was to introduce, further expand, and activate movement and the importance of a balanced diet. Many children and adults know its importance and the YMCA of Paterson wanted to and accomplished providing the opportunity to physically use the knowledge that has been sitting within them through use of our facility, the improvement of standards, and education.