Look for these faces on video soon!

School is back in session and thus our Teen Center will be starting up again soon.  The teens in Perth Amboy are excited to once again have a safe environment to exercise and socialize.  I met with our Summer Camp Counselors in Training (CIT’s) to discuss what Teen Center means for them and what they think we could do to help to continue this program.  This group of teens are all in the 13/14 year-old age range, so keeping Teen Center alive is most important for them, as they will be utilizing the Teen Center for several years to come.

Q: How does Teen Center at the Y impact you?

A: 14 year old boy: “I don’t always feel comfortable at home, I feel much better when I am at the Y and able to socialize with my friends, I feel I belong they care about us here”.

A: 13 year old boy: “I was able to meet a great basketball coach at Teen Center who helped me with my basketball skills, I don’t know any place else I could go to get that help for free”.

A: 14 year old girl: “I love to dance, but my parents can’t afford to send me to dance class, I like that I get to learn new things about dance at Teen Center and can practice with my friends.”

Q: What would you be doing on the nights that Teen Center is taking place if it wasn’t available any longer?

A: 14 year old girl: “Probably staying home bored on my computer”.

A: 13 year old boy: “Getting into trouble”.

A: 13 year old boy: “Hanging out on the street”.

Our conversation lead into how we could work together to help keep Teen Center going.  The teens were excited to be a part of the process. Our plan is to create a video, developed and created by the teens themselves to share their feeling on Teen Center and how important it is.  We plan to use this video on fund raising sites to see if we can raise enough funds to keep this program going.  Stay tuned for one amazing video soon!

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Teens working on a piece for their Teen Center Fund Raising Video1st leaders

Celebrating “Color Me Healthy” with Food Corp!

The YES Program of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen continues to provide opportunities of nutrition education with the families and children in New Brunswick.

Children and families enjoyed a field trip to the New Brunswick Farmer’s Market on July 23, 2015. This culminating activity as part of our “Color Me Healthy” nutrition education classes was a great celebration of our continued work on improving the knowledge of the New Brunswick community on nutrition and health.

Children, families, and staff participated in a tour of the children’s garden, enjoyed tastings of fresh fruits and vegetables, made “seed balls” with clay for planting, and took a fresh peach home to eat! All families received a $5 Market Bucks coupon to spend at the Farmer’s Market before they left.

While we were visiting, a van from Elijah’s Promise was there picking up produce to bring back to their kitchen!   Elijah’s Promise is one of several community partners that the Market serves.

Catholic Charities YES Program continues to be amazed at the energy around the subject of promoting health and nutrition within New Brunswick. This could not be possible without all of our community partners and relationships that we have developed through this project!

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“What do I know of man’s destiny? I could tell you more about radishes.” ~ Samuel Becket

Our Farmer’s Market is in full swing! The market is open every Tuesday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm thru October. Asprocolas Acres Farm provides our Farmers Market with over 100 pounds of fresh tomatoes, 168 pounds of fresh fruit, 3 bushels of various kinds of potatoes, as well as different varieties of lettuces, peppers, cucumbers, eggplants and of course bushels of their delicious NJ sweet corn as well as farm fresh eggs!

We have had a large turnout over the last few weeks. The community is thrilled to be able to shop from the wonderful array of produce. Over 100 customers visit our market each week, including seniors who are bused over so they may shop the market.  The market does participate in the WIC/Snap program and will take WIC/Snap Checks.

Additionally, our Children’s Community Garden has just produced its first crop!  We can’t wait for the cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, peas, beans as well as herbs to be ready for harvest. Our families were excited to learn that they may come to our Community Garden and pick fresh vegetables and herbs for their families to enjoy.

As we continue to strive to increase awareness in our community of healthy eating and healthy choices, we have begun to offer healthy recipe ideas to utilize the produce in new and unique ways. Recipes such as zucchini cakes, roasted corn and salsas were a big hit!  We are also looking to have local restaurants come to the market and compete in a “Make a Farmer’s Fresh Dish Contest”.  We will ask chefs to compete making a simple, delicious dish from the fresh produce found at the market.  They will prepare the dish, share it with shoppers and give them the recipe, so they may make it for their own families . . .stay tuned!

To check dates and times, follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RBAYMC

1Two of our Children’s Community Garden volunteers picking the first harvest of the season from our garden.  Radishes!  YUM!  We were even able to get the children to sample some!

veggiesBaskets of produce at our front desk as a reminder to members to stop by the market on their way out.

PARTNERING OPENS UP FUTURE POSSIBILITIES

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Fern Kulman, Health Educator for Woodbridge Department of Health and Human Services recently interviewed Peter Barcellona concerning his experience with collaborating with us on the Healthy Food and Food Pantry Initiative.  Peter is the Chair of “We Feed” which coordinates the local Food Pantries in Woodbridge.  He acts as the liaison between Woodbridge Township and the local Food Pantries.  Peter’s role in this initiative has been to provide outreach for the grant process to the selected pantries.  He has been instrumental in communicating to the selected food pantries in regards to the Registered Dietician’s outreach and education.  He feels that the current Grant has enhanced the Health Department’s relationship with the local food pantries and has opened up a new path of communication and cooperation between the two agencies. The Grant has provided the pantry volunteers with essential information on healthy eating.  In addition, there has been an increased awareness in the community in regards to what is considered a healthy food donation.   However, there have been some key challenges working with the Food Pantries.  Space was limited at the selected Food Pantries and thus a cooking demonstration could not be held.   Also, there was a language barrier at one selected Food Pantry since many clients there spoke only Spanish.  When asked about how we can continue to enhance our outreach Peter recommended that we continue to promote the healthy food donation list wherever we can.  Peter is making the healthy food donation flyer available at this year’s Woodbridge Summer Concert Series.  There are concerts held most days of the week and residents are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food donation when they attend.  He also suggested that the healthy food donation flyer be sent to the school system in the fall for inclusion in the student’s packets.  Lastly, Peter feels the ShapingNJ Grant collaboration was a success and would like to see an expansion the healthy food initiative to include another Community Garden within the Township.  This would increase the Grant’s sustainability.  He further suggested that creation of an additional Community Garden may be a good Scout project or a project for Tooling Around the Township in April 2016.

Combining Natures Goodness with Nutley’s Kindness

Well, here we are just about mid-way through our grant cycle and the progress and transformation of this under-utilized parcel of land is absolutely amazing.

We could not have imagined a more dedicated and driven group of individuals coming together to get this project off the ground and to keep it moving forward.  The residents that have committed to this project have gone above and beyond to make this garden a fun and desirable destination spot.  Lasting friendships are being forged, casual, yet educational, conversations occur on a daily basis and an overall mood of comradery blankets this modest 90’x50’ fenced in oasis.

To date, all twelve beds are planted and thriving – with eleven beds reserved for construction for next year.  With the help of our Master Gardeners, the residents that have never gardened before are growing their own produce with confidence and pride.  We have been fortunate enough to receive additional donations of fruit and vegetable plants, which have been planted in containers and placed around the perimeter of the garden.  100% of the material yielded from these plants will also be forwarded to the local food pantry and care kitchen.

Our first big event will be our ribbon cutting ceremony scheduled for Saturday, June 20th.  We have plans to conduct several educational workshops throughout the season, such as composting, rain barrels, canning, grilling of fresh fruits and vegetables, and more.  These workshops will be open to the general public, as well as of course, the garden participants, their families and friends.  Nutley is very fortunate in the fact that our residents are very interested and engaged in the betterment of our community and very willing to share their time and talents.  All of these workshops will be conducted by our participating Master Gardeners and/or volunteer community members.

We are so grateful to be able to combine Nature’s goodness with Nutley’s kindness!

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