This final blog is a little late but for good reason….I waited until our “September Stroll” to post. The first day of Autumn was picture perfect! The sun was bright, sky was blue and the temperature mild. A good part of the spring and summer were spent building this path in Lynn Park and now it was officially being inaugurated with our Lincoln Park Seniors. We were hoping for at least 10 seniors to show up, but happily had 37 seniors plus many other walkers! The Health Educator from Chilton Hospital’s New Vitality Program, Kathy Ferrara, ShopRite’s Registered Dietitian, Danielle Colombo, and Bloomfield Health Department’s Health Educator, Michael Hodges, were all present to support and educate on the many benefits of walking. Michael Hodges presented a David Letterman-style “Top Ten” countdown of the benefits of walking. We also had the pleasure of Kate Kraft walking with us! It was a fun way to start our Senior Walking Club! The walking club will meet 2-4 times/month, but many seniors and residents are already using the path on their own.
Our food environment audit was performed at 16 local dining and retail establishments in Lincoln Park. We found some positive factors, such as heart healthy options, organic choices and nutritional counseling in ShopRite, but there is definitely room for improvement. Future goals for ShapingNJ include partnering with Wolfson’s Market to create a “corner store,” and creating healthy menu items for some of the local dining establishments. Kate Kraft had some great recommendations on healthy eating as well as “walking prescriptions,” that we can incorporate going forward.
This has been a wonderful experience for Lincoln Park and we look forward to keeping the momentum going towards better health!
As we neared the end of our ShapingNJ grant period, just one item remained unchecked on our project list. Two of our three target communities – Bound Brook and Manville – had adopted Complete Streets, and we were pleased to learn that Somerville, the last of our target communities, had placed it on the agenda for their September 8 council meeting. With Healthier Somerset representatives in the audience, the resolution passed and Somerville became the eighth municipality in Somerset County to adopt a Complete Streets resolution. Over one third of Somerset County municipalities are now on board with a commitment to make our roads safer for all those who use them.
When we started our project, we knew that we needed policy change to create an environment that would support healthier lifestyles. We learned that implementing change takes time, patience, perseverance, and collaboration.
We also learned that partnerships not only make the workload easier, they also improve the final product. All of the partners who participated contributed ideas and energy that changed our perspective and helped us meet our objectives in ways that we had not imagined almost a year ago, when we prepared our grant application.
Here’s what we all achieved by working together:
“Complete Streets” policies passed in 3 targeted municipalities
16 bicycle racks purchased and distributed in targeted municipalities
300 vouchers distributed for purchase of fresh fruit and vegetables in local farmers markets
6 nutrition seminars presented; attended by 125 children and adults
140 bus tickets given out for free rides on Somerset County public buses
Increased partnerships among county agencies
As we close the chapter on this grant, we would like to recognize all our partners and thank them for their support and contributions:
Healthier Somerset presented the last of its nutrition seminars last week. Children and adults of all ages attended the Bound Brook session, which featured fun and informative games about nutritious foods, smoothie and salad demonstrations and sampling, and information about public transportation options.
EmPoWER Somerset and Zufall Health Centers partnered with NJ SNAP-Ed to plan and implement the seminars. RideWise TMA presented the transportation information and provided bus tickets purchased with ShapingNJ grant funds.
Our Complete Streets component is moving along nicely. Bound Brook, the most recent of the three boroughs to adopt the program, will install its just-delivered bike racks shortly.
We think the bike racks look like little robots!
More good news — Manville has adopted a “Complete Streets” policy! They will receive their bike racks soon.
We’re now at 7 municipalities (one-third of Somerset County) that have passed a resolution of support for the program. Our final ShapingNJ grant partner, Somerville, will vote on a Complete Streets resolution at its meeting on Tuesday, September 8. We’ll be there to support passage of the resolution!
The path construction is complete and now the planting begins!
Lincoln Park will be adding beautiful flora in locations along the path as well as 2 park benches for those who need to rest along the way. A boulder with a plaque will greet travelers who decide to embark on the path. It will read:
“If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads”
To kick off our new walking/running path, we will host a “September Stroll” for our Lincoln Park Senior Citizens Club. Each senior that participates will receive a pedometer at the beginning of the stroll and light refreshments at the end. We are hoping to encourage the continuation of a senior walking club with this inauguration!
Our Food Environment Assessment was well-received by the retail and dining establishments in Lincoln Park. Because of this audit, we have identified two areas going forward to partner and add healthier options for consumers. It is wonderful to live or work in a small community where people know your name and are always obliging to help make it a better place. We are very grateful to ShapingNJ and the Atlantic Health System in making Lincoln Park a healthier community!
The summer is racing by lickety-split (as the old saying goes) and so is our grant period in Lincoln Park. We are nearing completion of our 1/2 mile walking path in Lynn Park. It has not been a process without its hurdles though. First, the snow caused delays in the initial start, and then the terrain itself presented its own set of challenges, from poor drainage areas to stubborn tree roots. But, forge ahead we did! We have used tons of pea gravel and man hours to complete the path. We are planning an inaugural walk in September with our very young and spry Lincoln Park Seniors group!
At this point in time, we are planning the finishing touches to the path, having the plaque made to welcome our visitors, and selecting perennial plants and bushes to grace the woodsy setting. A few benches will be installed for the weary traveler along the path to rest, or just rejoice in the beauty of nature!
As for our food environment survey, we have identified a partner to collaborate with on a corner store! This is an ideal opportunity to use resources to help a segment of residents make healthier food choices. Lincoln Park is a small community, tight-knit in many ways, and we all benefit when we work together. Special thanks to Wolfson’s Market, specifically Wayne and Suzanne Wittenberg, on agreeing to partner with us in the future!
Allison Smith, RD, MPH
On a last sad and happy note, our talented and enthusiastic Allison Smith, RD, MPH, at ShopRite of Lincoln Park, is moving on to greener and much higher pastures! She has accepted a position at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and will be moving there very soon! We will miss her very, very much! It is sad for us to lose such a talented and committed asset in Lincoln Park, but happy that she starts a new and exciting chapter in her life! We wish you well Allison!!