Warren County is getting healthy!

With another year ending and the start of 2015 just beginning, can you think of a better time to start making better life choices? Warren County residents are in luck this year! Since securing ShapingNJ Health Community Grant funding, the team designated to managing the grant’s projects has been working diligently in order to move the grant plan into action. The grant’s time period will end in September, so you can expect more news in the near future regarding grant events and activities.

blogpicThe Warren County Health Department (WCHD) and the Rutgers Cooperative Extension as members of the Warren County Community Health Improvement Coalition (WC CHIC) will be the grant’s key coordinators. The WC CHIC grant plan includes four strategies: expansion of the Mayors Wellness Campaign, installation of bike racks, a Healthy Menu Options program, and farmer’s market voucher promotion. These strategies will promote healthy eating, physical activity, and develop relationships between residents, municipal government, local businesses, and the WC CHIC.

In an effort to get the community off the couch and to start moving, the bike rack installation strategy and Mayors Wellness Campaign expansion were created. Seeing as there are many trails scattered throughout the county, the bike rack installation strategy was chosen to promote healthy choices through physical activity by making trails more convenient for cyclists. The Mayors Wellness Campaign also promotes physical activity, as well as stronger bonds between mayors and their communities. This program gives mayors tools and strategies to encourage healthy and active living, and to improve the health of the community overall. Currently, 8 out of 21 municipalities in Warren County already participate in the program.

The Healthy Menu Options program and the promotion of farmer’s market vouchers are specifically designed to inform the public on healthier food options. With obesity still currently a major problem throughout the country, the Healthy Menu Options program addresses this issue with the help of local businesses. The program will be piloted in Hackettstown, NJ and aims to encourage restaurants to provide healthier options for diners and for diners to change what they order. With redemption rates of farmer’s market vouchers being low in Warren County, the farmer’s market voucher promotion plans to address this issue by establishing a Jersey Fresh event/farmer’s market day in Phillipsburg, NJ. We will create pocket guides that include various Warren County farmer’s markets and information on what’s in season. The event will include free samples of fresh produce, healthy recipes, and brief healthy eating education sessions. By targeting accessibility of affordable fruits and vegetables, community members will gain an expansive of list of where to obtain healthier foods.

There are many goals in mind for the end of this grant project. Obviously we hope that each of the four strategies mentioned will have a positive impact on the community. As time goes on, goals for each strategy include: installation of bike racks in at least 5 different locations, total amount of 16 municipalities participating in the Mayors Wellness campaign, gaining the support and interest of Hackettstown restaurants to adapt healthier options on their menu, and creating the first of many future Jersey Fresh events. By the end of this grant project, we predict a change in community involvement and business relations. Our strategies are designed to encourage positive lifestyle choices and encourage relationship building within the community. Hopefully by the end, community members and those involved with the grant project have a better understanding of one another to keep the overall mission of a healthier community going.

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