Healthy Nutrition and Physical Activity—what do these two topics have in common with Atlantic City? They are the primary focus of community and school based initiatives being executed by the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA (CCA YMCA) to advance the health and wellbeing of children in Atlantic City through funding from ShapingNJ. The CCA YMCA has begun expanding the YMCA’s Healthy Schools Program to two more schools, as well as laid the groundwork to expand the Healthy Corner Store Program.
The reasoning for this effort is simple. Atlantic County is 19th in overall ranking amongst all 21 counties in New Jersey for health. Nearly 35% of the residents in Atlantic City live below the poverty line. Americans living in poverty are more likely to develop a chronic disease, such as obesity. Atlantic City is also considered a food desert. A food desert is an area vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods. Unfortunately, many people who live in an area identified as a food desert will obtain their food through local corner stores or bodegas. Food options are usually limited in these stores and available products are normally dense in sugar and fats, while lacking nutritional value. For these reasons, CCCA YMCA and its partners are excited for this opportunity to continue work that was started last year in Atlantic City.
Currently, almost 1,000 students in total from the Atlantic City School District participate in the YMCA’s Healthy U program. CCA YMCA is planning to expand the Healthy U Program to two more Atlantic City schools, doubling the number children that receive education pertaining to being active , health and wellness. As warm weather approaches, Healthy Corner Store ambassadors from the CCA YMCA, with the guidance of the Food Trust, will be taking to the streets of Atlantic City to engage and encourage corner store owners to offer healthier food options in areas where student foot traffic is high.CCA YMCA will also engage corner stores that are identified as WIC participants to ensure that healthful products are available.