As our Shaping Dover initiative comes to an end we start to reminisce about our project, its challenges, its impact in our community, our activities, and all the people who have helped us get here. We can’t help but feel proud of our accomplishments.

We started by meeting monthly with great community partners such as: Zufall Health Center, Berkeley College; Get To It Program, ADP Insurance Agency, Little Peoples Academy, NORWESCAP Early Head Start, Henry O. Baker Insurance Agency, Head Start Community Program of Morris County, Dover Rotary Club, Statewide Parents Advocate Network, and Dover Lions Club, interns from William Paterson University, volunteers from our Family Success Center agency and In addition to these great partners, we are pleased to have the support of decision makers in our community such as James Dodd, Major of Dover; Susan Downer, Health Inspector of the Town of Dover, and Claudia Choto, Nurse of the Town of Dover.





These meetings allowed us to brainstorm great ideas for our initiative. First, it was decided to conduct assessments for food environment and physical activity in the Dover Community. More than 300 residents were surveyed. The results of the surveys guided us on where to focus our resources in order to make the most impactful environmental change possible. The results gave us an idea on what the residents of Dover needed the most such as more access to gyms and healthy food. Fifty one percent of the residents surveyed said that they “sometimes” engage in physical activity, meanwhile they listed “no time, no motivation, and no parks nearby as the major reasons why they do not engage in physical activities.

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The Shaping Dover team decided to focus on creating free fitness workshops and fitness activities, while working with restaurant business owners to add healthier options in their menus. We had non-stop fitness workshops every Saturday at 12:00pm at our agency. However, the number of participants outgrew our facility thus we contacted our mayor’s office who gladly is permitting us to use the Dover Community Center. This center has the space to allow us to grow and offer the Dover community a place to exercise indefinitely.



In June 2015 we partnered with our local Health Department in order to train business owners and their employees in proper food handling and nutrition classes. More than one hundred individuals participated in this training which took place at Berkeley College, our local college in Dover. After having these trainings we surveyed the participants in order to analyze their cooking techniques and willingness to change or add to healthier options to their menus.

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Seventy one percent of the restaurant owners/employees surveyed answered that they are willing to consider changing their cooking technics. Furthermore, Business owners responded that 46% of customers have at some point requested healthier options in their business.

We encouraged business owners to give us ideas on how to implement our goals. One of these suggestions was to design a logo that would express the meaning of Shaping Dover. The purpose of the logo contest is to raise awareness of our initiative while also getting kids involved in a healthier frame of mind. Kids ages 10-18 will design our logo and will not only receive great prizes but also better understand what it means to live a healthier lifestyle. The award ceremony of the contest will take place on October 3rd at the Annual Health Fair of one of our biggest supporters, The Head Start Community Program. This year The Dover Head Start program is also celebrating their 50th anniversary. We are extremely excited for Shaping Dover to join their celebration.

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We are sad to see Shaping Dover coming to an end but we believe it has started a fitness revolution in our town. Dover is a peculiar town filled with great people who join together despite being from so many different backgrounds. We have the best restaurants in New Jersey (no, we are not biased) and we are working towards having the healthiest town as well. We are looking forward to what the next couple of months will bring but we are confident the community is ready for health!




I am writing this blog on such a high!  Just back from our Shaping Elizabeth Work Group Meeting.

I wish I could pass the good vibes that I am feeling through the blog.  The conversations, honesty, successes and commitment that were shared were both rewarding and exhilarating.

At the meeting the Playstreets Team and Corner Store Team shared their success, challenges, plans for the future and a call for action with the group through pictures, anecdotes, data and stories.  Below is a link to lessons learned and future planning for our playstreets initiative.  Next year bigger and better is already in planning stages.  Healthy Stores is plugging along and 2 organizations signed on to support the project with stores in their area that they have relationships with.  Dates were set to make those connections.

We also shared our nutrition education program “Eat Healthy, Be Active Community Workshops” coming this fall.  A nutritionist will be hired next week and organization has already signed up to provide space and most importantly people to attend.  This program is funded through The Elizabethtown Healthcare Grant.

In 9 months we have formed “working collaborations” not just paper collaborations that benefited the community.  Playstreets brought together City of Elizabeth, The Gateway Family YMCA, 3 council people, 1 Freeholder, WellCare Inc., Union County Community Food Bank, City of Elizabeth Health Department and several organizations in participation, in-kind support and donations Sept WG DAC 2 Sept WG DAC 4

Shaping Elizabeth Partners understanding how to work better together.

Shaping Elizabeth Partners understanding how to work better together.

Impacting over 350 children and adults with 3 play streets.  In addition we feel we can use the Playstreets events as a model of engagement and a change agent for the community.

Currently we have 1 Corner Store Signed up and 2 more in the works.  We also received a grant from the Food Trust to be able to supply nutrition education, taste testings and equipment to committed owners.

We shared an exercise from our Robert Wood Johnson Center for Creative Leadership Training on Direction, Commitment and Alignment.  The discussion that followed and the information from the team was inspiring and will help set future direction.

My final thought comes from one of our participants, I am paraphrasing: She stated that Shaping Elizabeth was her community team of choice to attend – she went on to say – the spirit of collaboration, the support for each other and the meeting organization was valued by her and her organization.

What could be better than that! Can You Feel it!

Shaping Elizabeth Celebrating Playstreets Lesson Learned

Get Ready for the Phillipsburg Farmers’ Market Day!

Farmers MarketThe Warren County Health Department and Rutgers Cooperative Extension SNAP-Ed are collaborating to host the Phillipsburg Farmers’ Market Day. The event will take place on September 11th between 2:30-7pm to promote more fruit and vegetable intake throughout the community. Hensler Farms and Mackey’s Orchard will be the primary vendors at the event supplying their freshest seasonal produce. Since the purpose of the event is to increase fruit and vegetable intake throughout the community, the farmers are allowing local residents to use their Senior/WIC (FMNP) vouchers.

This is not just your ordinary farmers’ market event; there will be fun family activities like free health screenings, free fruit and vegetable tasting samples, a door prize giveaway sponsored by the Phillipsburg Mayors Wellness Campaign, and many local health organizations will be having tables promoting their services. Another great part of the farmer’s market event will be all the free children’s activities.  Nutrition students from Montclair State University and Public Health Students from East Stroudsburg University will be volunteering to help out with this event. Some activities include a moon bounce, face painting, Cross Fit for kids, beanbag toss and seed spitting. The kids will have the opportunity to make their own farmers’ market bag and participate in a scavenger hunt around the farmers market. Kids learn through fun hands on activities and games and that it really the goal of this event.

For more information, check out the poster with the link below:

Farmers Market Poster


Jonathan and Priscilla bring Healthy Information to Emily's.

Jonathan and Priscilla bring Healthy Information to Emily’s.

Emilys Corner Store Second visit #2

Store Manager Jose becomes familiar with healthy signage.

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Karen observes a healthy new cereal that consumers can purchase.

Emilys Corner Store Second visit #7

The team is welcomed by Jose. Success Emily’s Corner Store made 5 Healthy Changes.

Success Emily’s Corner Store made 5 Healthy Changes.

Our Corner Store Team made a second visit to Emily’s to observe the healthy changes that were made.

We observed that Jose had implemented 5 changes 100% Juice, Whole Wheat Bread, a new Veggie, 2 whole grain cereals, and a lean meat option.  The team made some suggestions for a few more items: 1% milk, more canned fruit in light syrup and 100% juice.

We will be requesting the $100 grant to support additional changes in location of items and displaying them.  We will visit the store again and begin to set up food tastings and healthy recipe cards in September.

Team members posted the corner store healthy signage to begin to educate consumers on how to make healthy choices.

Promoting Healthy Lifestyles

Salem County hosted its annual fair August 4-7. Our true county fair draws thousands of visitors over a four-day run. The Salem County fair is unique, its an agricultural fair with activities for everyone – pig scramble, dog show, skillet throwing contest, tractor pulls, horse show, 4H displays, best of show for fruits, veggies, and livestock. The fair is a showcase of what of our county is!


With the large number of visitors to the fair, we decided to target the crowd with a healthy lifestyle display. Our fair booth hosted free blood pressure screenings, apples, oranges, jump ropes, healthy cookbooks and educational information. The biggest hit of our booth was the “Eat This, Exercise That” and “Rethink Your Drink” displays.

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The “Eat This, Exercise That” display showed how in the past 20 years our portion sizes have grown and how much exercise it would take to burn off the calories. The kids were surprised that to burn off that chocolate chip cookie, they would have to wash a car for 1 hour and 20 minutes. The “Rethink Your Drink” display showed the sugar content of popular drinks.

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Free Apples and Oranges!

To reinforce the “Rethink your Drink” display, we had a sugar guessing game. Everyone was invited to guess how many teaspoons of sugar was in their drink.  The bags of sugar were a great hands on aid for the kids and parents to get a real visual of what they are drinking! Everyone was surprised by the amounts of sugar and walked away rethinking their drinks.

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Sierra Mist 29 grams of sugar = 7 teaspoons of sugar Brisk Ice Tea 20 grams of sugar = 5 teaspoons of sugar

The fair was a success!

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If you want to read more about our unique county fair, follow the link: