Taking it to the street with the “Wilday Ride”!

10-7-15 RidersThe first Wednesday in October is always International Walk or Bike to School Day!  This time we took it to the street with the first annual “Wilday Ride”, a 4 mile road ride around the Grace Wilday School neighborhood!

Working again with the Grace Wilday Junior High School in Roselle, we added a new partner, the Roselle Police Department.  We took Safe Cycling education up a notch by conducting an actual road ride, on open streets around the school neighborhood.  The key was working with a very supportive Principle, Dr. Falaise, who’s “can do” attitude and cooperation of the Roselle Police Department made this possible.

Dr. Falaise is quick to say “YES” and find a way to make things happen.  This has made offering safe cycling programs at Grace Wilday most successful.  We started off with the A, B, C Quick Check to make sure bikes were road ready.  Next we made sure all the riders were supplied a helmet if they did not have one. Then we made sure the riders themselves were “road ready” with a few parking lot drills to cover the basics.  After screening roughly 20 riders, we were able to venture out into the streets, following a unique 2 mile road loop, (twice), which included almost all right hand turns, minimizing exposure to crossing traffic.  With a police escort, we obeyed traffic law by stopping at stop signs and staying to the right.  With a police escort, we also had the extra security of knowing we had motorist attention.

With International Walk or Ride to School Day established in the school calendar and a successful example of an event which encourages young students to ride their bike, we will work to build on this success and spread it to other schools.

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A Culture of Health Growing at the Greenwood Ave. Farmers Market

As the weather cools with the change in seasons, the Greenwood Ave. Farmers Market staff reflects on the experience they’ve had since June 15, and its impact on the neighborhood. From Bike Fest where children and adults came together to test their biking skills, receive bike safety equipment, and purchase bicycles and tricycles, to visits with the mayor; from our grand opening with many speakers and representatives to our regularbike fest markets on Monday that are filled with produce, music, and smiles; we are always appreciative and humbled by the community that has been cultivated and grown with nutrition as its catalyst.

We have watched a transformation in our customers occur throughout the season. A weary population who were accustomed to unreliable businesses and had learned to not trust new events such as a farmers market, has transitioned into a network of regular patrons who are energetic as they continue conversations with their new friends from the Monday before and encourage their friends and family to join them as they play bingo and shop for healthy food items. Those who were shy to be approached in the beginning are now the ones engaging our staff enthusiastically about what recipes they used last week and which produce they are excited about this week. It is easy for us to enjoy ourselves at the market as our customers usually have a joke or kind word to share, and readily convey to us their appreciation for what the market brings to the neighborhood.

We are pleased with our attendance for the market, as more than 3,200 people have visited the market to shop from June until September. Almost $1,460 in incentives have been distributed through our membership in programs such as the Greenwood Green Program and City Green’s Good Food Bucks Program with Wholesome Wave. These are incentives for customers with benefits such as SNAP/EBT, WIC, and FMNP to use them at the market and we match their purchases $1 for $1. Many locals benefited by the provided health services. Henry J. Austin servednorz staff 112 patients during the market. Their services included nutrition consulting, asthma, HIV counseling and testing, information on insurance and the Affordable Care Act, and body mass index (BMI) readings. Horizon saw 60 patients throughout the Farmers Market and their services included blood glucose testing, blood pressure screenings, and body mass index (BMI) readings. The Impact Van served 151 patients during the market. Their services included body mass index (BMI) readings, blood pressure screenings, blood glucose testing, HbA1c’s for diabetes, and glaucoma and vision screenings.

The community has shown us they are grateful for the market’s contribution to Trenton. The customers, vendors, services, DJs, and our own staff have all been influenced by being a part of growing a culture of health and bringing diverse populations together. We are glad to be introduced to each other through the means of nutrition and wellness, and intend to continue to strengthen our lives as we move forward as a communal unit. We are glad the surrounding area of the once vacant parking lot on the corner of Hudson and Greenwood Ave. have embraced the market into their lives. We are so happy to be there.

Wonderful Ending to a Wonderful Program

We here at East Orange Community Development Corporation-EOCDC (soon to be known as “Horizon of Hope of the Oranges, A Family Care Center”, have truly enjoyed being a part of such a worthwhile project.  Health, health education, nutrition, nutritional food products, exercise, initiating exercise routines, gardening and growing healthy,nutritional foods that benefit our bodies have all been a part of the message EOCDC is spreading to its communities.  Developing partnerships with Our Lady Help of Chrisitians School to do the community garden and helping to get our communities healthy through our Nutrition Classes, food pantry and exercise classes has been an exciting journey. Collaborating with our local and municipal entities as well as the community has opened the opportunity to develop positive relationships and parternerships.

We have waiting lists for the Nutrition Classes as a result of former participants passing the word throughout the community. Our participation rate has doubled and our food pantry participate access has tripled since we began in February 2015.

We are excited to begin our community garden next Spring and looking to build a green house within the garden to grown veggies and fruit all year long. There is plenty of space and the community participates who will be volunteering are anxious to begin.  We are seeking assistance for this project from Rutgets 4H Club and our local vendors. The photos below show the lot before we got in there and began the cutting, raking, mowing process and the lot once we finished. This has been a wonderful ending to a wonderful program that is really just beginning.

communitygarden2-BeforeAfter-community garden 4

Woodbridge Wraps Up Shaping NJ Grant

20150616_180743     Woodbridge completed their ShapingNJ grant initiative this month. The Food Pantry Nutrition Program had great success. The Registered Dietician made 10 visits 20150616_174605to the food pantries and she provided nutritional educational outreach to many of their clients. The My Plate educational program was held for seven of the food pantry volunteers. While cooking demonstration by Wegman’s Food Markets was held at Public Health Day. Food tasting by NJ SNAP-ED was held at the Kids Day Out event at Parker Press. In addition, 964 nutritional information flyers were distributed throughout the grant period. A healthy donation handout was also developed for the food pantries to distribute to the community through their locations. A pre and post assessment survey was provided to residents who use the 2 selected food pantries. The results indicated that more residents were reading nutrition labels, especially for sodium. In addition residents were making better use of foods received in regard to healthier eating.

Our walking path and bike rack initiative has seen tremendous response from the community. We participated in the Middlesex County Greenway Walk held June 16, 2015. Sixty participants attended the event. In addition, a new walking path was installed at the Woodbridge Health Center that now completes a loop around the fields next to the Health Center. Almost immediately, many residents and employees have begun using the path. Five bike racks have been acquired and are currently being installed at various sites including the Evergreen Youth Center. Our Walking brochure was developed and distributed to strategic locations within the Township to highlight our walking paths throughout the Township. The walking assessment survey was utilized and distributed randomly at the Senior Center, Youth Center and Municipal Alliance meeting. A total of 141 surveys were completed. The results indicated that adult residents identified walking paths close to where they live and the youths surveyed were cognizant of school walking path sites. One resident indicated that markers should be provided at Evergreen Center walking path. Our final event will be an awareness event with the Mayor and the students that attend the Youth Center. The event is scheduled for Thursday September 24, 2015 to encourage use of the new bike rack installed at that location.

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The Westside Park Group Grows and Plans for the future!

Another year is coming to an end but with it comes lessons learned and bigger plans for the future.  This past year saw the Westside Park Group grow adding two community gardens to this cooperative effort.  School #12 and the Hillcrest Community Garden joined the effort to share ideas, supplies, knowledge, restore “pride in the Westside” and engage area residents in activities that would give them the opportunity to socialize, exercise and feel included in the community.  Learning and sharing about planting, nurturing the crops and harvesting the “fruits of their labors” in the fall is an added bonus.

Some things that we wished to accomplish have been extended into next year.  For example as “newbies” in organizing a farmer’s market we didn’t realize that you really need to “nail down” farmers and merchants the year before.  Flyers were created and disseminated at this year’s surrounding towns farmers markets to keep us in mind for Thursdays in 2016 (May – October).

The walking path sign holders were a bit more complicated and difficult to assemble and install.  That coupled with the heat and humidity, lack of rainfall (to soften the ground) and time it takes to install one sign holder, leaves us still assembling and installing.

We’ve learned that we need to have a log of “water bearers” for the summer months and contact information to remind them of their duties.

All in all we continue to move in a fantastic direction!  We will celebrate with a “Fall Festival” on October 17th and conceptualize our plans and ideas for 2016!