Let’s Move and Eat Together!








On Saturday September 6th the community of Garfield had a morning of activity at 20th Century Field Park on Elizabeth Street.

 The day consisted of a 5K Run/Walk, Masala Bhangra®, Zumba®, a Family Fun Run, a Family Bike Ride and a Qi Gong Class.  As well, there were apples, oranges and bananas free for all participants. While there was an entry fee for the 5K (that is an official Track and Field Certified Run) the rest of the activities were free to the entire community.

 It was particularly exciting to offer Qi Gong to the community in the park. Qi Gong helps cultivate energy. Qi Gong is a holistic discipline that anyone can practice to create better health. Participants aged from middle school all the way to senior citizen. A community cultivating energy together in the park is a community that will continue to grow and work together.

 The city of Garfield saw some tremendous opportunity and access throughout 2014 for increased wellness. Throughout the year the Garfield Y was hard at work with a project that looked to increase opportunity to fresh food and physical activity. When looking at the project there were many vehicles used; a garden to gather knowledge, fellowship, and nutrition; community events that built connections and friendships while sharing knowledge and activity; a commitment to keep fresh healthy food present at all community events; and last but not least, building an on-line community through social media to build awareness and connections on the topics of community health and fun.  

 Because we are unique individuals, a multi-faceted approach to creating increased wellness in a community is key. An abundance of opportunity delivered through various on ramps and vehicles will yield an integrated community. This is what makes us whole. This is what makes us complete. This is the definition of health. Opportunity is an idea. Choice is opportunity in action. Where prescriptions are failing this western culture, (because if they worked we would not have chronic disease) they Garfield Y has choices entering the arena in the fight against dis-ease. The study of whether more people attended Zumba or Qi Gong, liked to eat eggplants or tomatoes, is not going to yield the secret weapon needed to wage war on ailing health and building a community. That the opportunity is there to deliver Zumba or Qi Gong, that we can grow eggplants and tomatoes, this is where the substance of healing and improved health lay. For helping the Garfield Y deliver such opportunities with choices, Shaping NJ is at the forefront of change agents. The Garfield YMCA thanks Shaping NJ for helping us in our mission. We love doing what we do and we are so happy to work together!   




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A Community Garden At Work; Feeding the Brain and the Belly!

Amazing how a little Community Garden can be used as a classroom and a playground! The garden in Garfield NJ has done more than produce beautiful vegetables and herbs. As we expected, we saw harvests of tomatoes, eggplant, pepper, squash, oregano, basil, lavender, mint, strawberries and some very TALL sunflowers; however, the garden has had many visitors. Our largest component comes from the children who attend summer camp at the Y who help water and harvest. The garden has also seen local community members participate in a program called, “The Gardner Is In,” taught by a Master Gardner who provides lessons on growing, gardening, weather, and nutrition. Then, there is the Food For Thought Healthy Living Volunteer Garden Program under the direction of Denise Panglignan for those with a greater interest in not only learning how to grow and harvest, but also studying the garden and quantifying results. A wonderful visit from a Hackensack University Medical Center Nursing Class took placephoto 1 (2) photo 2 (2)photo 1 (3)  photo 3 (2)photo 2 (3)   photo 4 (2)    with a discussion on the 6 dimensions of health and how a garden can improve their overall health. Students then learned how to compost, and harvest. A student provided a recipe demo and participants had the opportunity to eat right from the garden.

Our art camp even made a visit to the garden and were tasked to decorate the garden as part of an art project. Our youngsters decorated rocks and were treated to a garden lesson when they delivered their finished products to the garden.

The opportunity to increase health, knowledge, fun, and socialization is present, and the garden has proven how it can be used as such a vital tool to help the Y build the foundation of community!

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Keeping Physical Activity and Healthy Eating Present at Community Wide Events in Garfield NJ

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The Community of Garfield has certainly been alive with celebration in the month of June. A Community Week End took place on June 20th and 21st.

June 20th was a celebration for families; the first day of summer and the last day of school. What did over 1,000 (yes one thousand participants) decide to do that night? They came to Belmont Oval Park for a movie under the stars; Disney’s Frozen. The movie started at dusk but participants were invited to come to the park at 6:00 p.m. for games and food. The Y was present with their staff who are trained as Horizon BCBS Healthy U CATCH facilitators (Coordinated Approach to Childhood Health) to get kids playing. The CATCH curriculum puts an emphasis on non-elimination games which provides moderate-to-vigorous physical activity to keep kids moving and having fun.

In addition to CATCH, children had the opportunity to bounce and slide before settling down for a movie. The Y was also on hand with a Shaping NJ Project! Many families packed their own food and picnics; however dinner and snacks were for sale. The Y ensured there was a healthy option available and provided 500 bananas and apples as snacks for participants.

The following day, the City came out for the Dundee Dam River Walk Dedication. Many years in the making, Garfield cleaned up the diesel lots that once rested on the River Front and built a walk-way and a park. Families from the whole city came out to meet local business owners, play games, visit vendors and attended the unveiling of the statue of Casimir Pulaski — a Polish military commander who fought in the American Revolutionary War — that stands at the center of the park. The statue won the support of the large Polish population in Garfield. The Y was on hand once again with the Shaping NJ Project making sure healthy options were available and gave away bananas and apples all day.

In the meantime, there is a garden that is growing at 33 Outwater Lane and receiving tremendous attention because of its lush color and beauty! Visitors have been able to clip their own herbs from the garden including oregano, basil and mint. While we wait for our first harvest of vegetables, 2 Community Wide Programs are in place for the summer. “The Gardener Is In” is a 6 week program that meets at the garden once a week. Garden State Urban Farms and Master Gardeners will be supplying instruction and activity in the garden for any community member who is interested in learning more about growing food, nutrition, nature, science, etc…This is an intergenerational program and the  invitation to the community says,  “The Gardner is in every Thursday from 1:00-2:00. Meet at the picnic table at 33 Outwater Lane.”

Lastly, a larger Urban Farming Project in the City is taking place through the RWJ sponsored Healthy Living Food For Thought Summer Garden Program. This program will engage volunteers to support their community by learning how to grow healthy food while having fun. All ages will; learn how to garden, grow fruits and vegetables, learn healthy behaviors, nutrition education, have physical activity opportunities, experience fun and fellowship and lastly community service. The program is being run by Denise Pangilinan, a Rutgers graduate student currently working on a Master’s degree in Public Health. Her project is to do an evaluation of the “Food for Thought: Healthy Living” Community garden program. The purpose of the study is to evaluate if this program can lead to behavior change in physical activity and healthy food adoption among program participants. She will also do a process evaluation to measure the effectiveness of the program.

Summer will definitely be an exciting time in the Garden and around the City. We hope you can stop by to meet the Gardener one day!

Multi-Cultural Night: Celebrating Our Universal Being in Garfield NJ

On May 23, 2014 the Garfield YMCA hosted  Multi-Cultural Night.

Close to 150 people from surrounding communities gathered at 480 Midland Ave under one flag, the United States of America. Much of what the flag stands for is what the family of the Garfield YMCA stands for: the ability to celebrate our diversity without discrimination. All people are welcome, all traditions respected, all children and families have the same opportunity to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Multi-Cultural Night is a representation of showing community, understanding, and appreciation in action.

Events and organizations like this, are building community to overcome the disparities of health.  Multi Cultural Night does not contain the “righting effect,” which is a prescription emphasized with should that includes the right way to live, eat, play, and sleep, (all in all- the right way to be!) This is a negative environment that breeds fear, defeat and rejection. We know there are many ways to; becoming healthier, making change, living, eating and playing, yet many families do not feel they are successful in taking care of their family’s health because of messaging and images we receive daily. Where some individuals understand intention is about action not about feeling, the larger population usually needs to FEEL successful in order to BE successful. They have to create the feeling within before they can manifest outside.

So Mutli-Cultural Night aims to look at broader, higher truths and look at health holistically. Having our community members come to eat, dance and sing together leads to many healthy behaviors.  What stems from this is a sense of communing. A sense of communing is the essential ingredient for any relationship. Even within self, if not communing (body, mind and spirit) we are dysfunctional, disintegrated, incomplete, and born out of these feelings are sorrow, anger, guilt and shame which breeds the shadow. A sense of communing breeds respect, honesty, caring, responsibility and inclusion. Wouldn’t you agree this becomes fertile planting ground for the seeds of positive transformation?

We wonder if projects that are looking to give people access and opportunity to healthy living will work? When opportunity and access is grown from intention that takes the Natural Laws of the Universe into consideration, the answer is of course they will work. When we must evaluate the outcomes of these projects we are being asked to quantify the undefined. We can not quantify how many organic tomatoes and peppers one must eat combined with how many hours of physical activity one must perform weekly to find the formula that will yield the individual feeling healthy, peaceful accepted, conscious, aware, positive, light and love. Perhaps as we try to add value to the undefined we limit it. Perhaps we should be careful with testing the Natural Laws of the Universe.

We forget that sharing a meal and dance is in many cultures still regarded as sacred. In today’s complex society, sharing a meal and art with strangers is offering one to come inside. Our auto response is usually to put up barriers; don’t talk to strangers. There are times we have to intentionally break barriers to remind us all that none of us are strangers.

One part of the night we planned was to include fresh fruits and vegetables grown in our garden served up by our community partner, Meals with A Mission but Mother Nature had her way and our garden has not been able to produce crops yet; however, Joe Blythe from Meals with A Mission is a man who comes through every time. Through the donations Meals with a Mission receives, Joe served up 30 meals of sausage, with rice and beans, not coincidentally a new Spanish recipe he just started working with. So we had some ethnic dishes to share including Meals with A Mission’s delicious corn on the cob donation for all participants. What other types of food? We had over 50 types of dishes from all over the globe present! Children in after school care programs made center pieces for the tables themed around universal connectivity.

Performers included dance groups in ethnic grab representing Peru, Poland, Ecuador, Albania, Punjab, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, USA and musicians representing the USA and Italy.

Families were rightfully proud of their heritage and rich traditions.  Each participant brought something very special to share. Yes, we were fortunate to have performers and food but each participant was the gift itself to the night to make the whole what is was. The event was a family dinner full of joy that had no dysfunction. Remember that last statement at your next holiday meal when you’re sitting with your family… How did they Y pull this off with strangers and we can’t do it within our own family? Remember the fertile ground, remember the ingredients. It’s the Y’s 5 Core Values; caring, honesty, respect, responsibility and inclusion.


Have Farm, Will Travel

Lorraine Gibbons from Garden State Urban Farms tells the seniors at the Garfield YMCA about her "traveling farm."
Lorraine Gibbons from Garden State Urban Farms tells the seniors at the Garfield YMCA about her “traveling farm.”

Throughout the month of March senior YMCA members enjoyed visits from Lorraine Gibbons who is the garden master mind of the community garden project taking root at the Garfield YMCA this Spring. Lorraine met with the seniors after one of their exercise classes to talk with them about her “traveling farm,” earthboxes that can be located almost anywhere and can grow almost anything, in abundance! She also spent time getting to know the seniors: What’s their heritage? What vegetables do you associate with your heritage, your childhood? Who is growing food in their back yards? What are you successful growing?

Well the seniors weren’t quite ready to wait for planting season. They were all very interested in the earthbox system and started making their lists of what they wanted to plant. This brought Lorraine back for another visit. She came back with an earth box and showed our seniors how they would be growing food in the boxes and what the harvest looks like!

Many of the seniors at the Y knew about the garden that was at Jewel Street Park last year, and are excited to have the garden at the Y this year, and also to have the opportunity to help plant, maintain and harvest. This is the perfect starting point for the vision of an intergenerational garden. The YMCA  preschool plans to implement garden curriculum for the children and they will often work on activities with the YMCA’s senior members in the garden.

The preschoolers, who each have an earthbox in their classrooms, received their “grow lights” this week and staking system so they could successfully grow food indoors. Their boxes will be set up shortly and a family planting night will take place during one of the Parent Association Meetings this Spring.

The winter has been a rough one, as will anyone who is wanting to grow food will tell you. Inspecting the grounds was an issue in and of itself because snow was on the ground so long. We were finally successful mapping out our garden plan this week. Not only will earthboxes be planted off the main parking lot of our Y, we found we have space to plant some flowers, and best of all, on our playground! Our preschoolers will get a delightful treat!  Sunflowers for the Spring and Pumpkins for the Fall!



Surveying the grounds for the Garden


Some of our seniors said they are also looking forward to the social aspect of our community garden