Welcome to the new Atlantic City, where health is imperative and change is occurring! After a very productive and positive summer, it is safe to say that a movement is underway. Six of Atlantic City’s corner stores have begun implementing the Food Trust’s Healthy Corner Store Initiative. The owners of La Abaduncia, Cedar Basic Foods, A&B Grocery, K&K Gift and Grocery, and Cedar Market VIII—just to name a few—have taken steps toward improving the quality of life for local residents by providing healthier food options.
As where there have been changes to the physical environment, health based educational and encouragement programs have also been expanded to ensure that true impact occurs. Last year, the YMCA brought its Healthy U Program to two of Atlantic City’s schools: Texas Avenue and Richmond Avenue. This year, the program will be brought to New York Avenue School! This means that more children will have the opportunity to be engaged in physical activity. During out of school time, children will have access to healthier foods at participating corner stores.
So, what are the future plans? Recently, the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA, the AtlantiCare Foundation, and Rutgers SnapED department have been discussing expanding education programs by offering health screenings near partnered corner stores and schools. As where this has only been a preliminary discussion, creating a culture of health in Atlantic City looks promising.
Atlantic City is turning over a new leaf! The community has voiced its opinion and the verdict is in—healthy eating and active living are of utmost importance. Six corners stores have signed up to participate in the New Jersey Healthy Corner Store Initiative! A&B Food Market, Boom Supermarkets, Cedar Basic Foods (1700 Baltic Ave.), Cedar Dollar Plus, Cedar Food Market VIII , K&K Gift and Grocery, and La Abundancia have all taken the first step to provide healthier food and beverage options. Staff at the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA will be providing free training to corner store owners on how to properly purchase and display fresh fruits and vegetables, market healthier foods, and conduct product placement seminars.
The Atlantic City School District was not to be outdone by local corner stores. New York Avenue School has signed up to participate in the YMCA’s Healthy U Program. Healthy U is a program aimed at preventing childhood obesity through improved nutrition, increased physical activity, and parental involvement. Results show improvement in key health measurements including increased physical activity and healthier eating.
Moving forward, the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA hopes to partner with Atlantic City’s Family Success Centers to expand the effort through community ambassadors. As where work is moving forward, weaving the project throughout the fabric of the community will be key to achieve sustainability.
Recently, the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA had the opportunity to sit down with Atlantic City School District’s Healthy U champion, Julie Land, to discuss her efforts in expanding Healthy U to other schools. Over her 30 year tenure as a Physical Education Teacher, Ms. Land has consistently tried to incorporate new methods and modules into her lesson plans that educate and encourage healthy and active living.
CCAYMCA: Has Healthy U made a difference?
Julie Land: “Absolutely; in physical education and in health, the program has made a difference in the way students approach decision making. Students tend to think twice about food choices and tend to be more active when given the opportunity to do so.”
CCAYMCA: Has the program been easy to integrate?
Julie Land: “It was fairly easy to integrate the program due to being a part of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. A wellness team was in place and amazingly supportive. Naysayers even started to gravitate toward wanting to know more over time. It was important to keep those that share similar interests involved and their morale high—pictures are posted all over the halls with students participating in activities.”
CCAYMCA: Has it been easy to get new schools involved?
Julie Land: “Other PE Teachers are interested, however 5 physical education teachers were let go this year. The turnover has caused tremendous difficulty in soliciting new partnerships with other schools. New York Avenue Health and PE Teachers were not reinstated. Uptown Complex has shown interest.”
CCAYMCA: How has your perspective changed through participating?
Julie Land: “Communication with parents is the most difficult. Because of this, students are not active at home. However, next year I plan on integrating parents into the wellness committee. Also, Chefs with a Mission, will be incorporated into the plan to engage parents to cook healthier meals at home.”
Success can be determined by the impact a project has or can have on a group of people over time. Although the success of chronic disease prevention programs can not be determined immediately upon their administration, projected outcomes can be identified if the program is evidence based. In Atlantic City, the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA and the NJPHK-AC (New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids Atlantic City) is utilizing the YMCA’s Healthy U Program to combat childhood obesity. The YMCA’s Healthy U Program aims to prevent childhood obesity through improved nutrition, increased physical activity, and parental involvement.
Currently, the Healthy U Program is being championed at Texas Avenue and Richmond Avenue Schools. Recently, the program has been expanded to New York Avenue School! The New York Avenue School Wellness Committee will be trained on their next Professional Development Day. The Wellness Committee consists of the school nurse, principal, PE teachers, and various staff members.
The Healthy Corner Store initiative is gaining ground in Atlantic City as the Healthy U program takes the school district by storm. The Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA and the NJPHK-AC has been vigorously scanning and soliciting local corner stores to make the necessary conversions to provide healthier food options for the residents of the communities they serve. By offering a variety of food options devoid of fats, sodium, and excess sugars, the fight against chronic disease would be impacted tremendously. This summer, staff will be tirelessly reaching out to targeted stores around schools and communities to make the biggest impact possible in the daily lives of those that use these grocers as the primary source in obtaining meals.
To ensure the success of work being conducted in Atlantic City to expand the YMCA’s Healthy U Program and the Healthy Corner Store Program, relationships have been cultivated within the community. As an expansion of work that was conducted last year, the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA has been able to leverage existing relationships to build new ones. Last year, the Healthy U Program was administered in both Texas Avenue and Richmond Avenue schools. PE Teacher Julie Land has championed the expansion of the program to another school.
Due to the statewide success of the New Jersey Healthy Corner Store Initiative, recruiting new stores in Atlantic City to participate in the Healthy Corner Store Program has been made easier. Once again, leveraging past success and prior relationships is key. Once the summer hits, the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA will be sending out more representatives to the area to expand its work.