We SHAPED Perth Amboy in 2014!

Children’s Community Garden: We all know the saying “What a difference a day makes.” Well I must say “What a difference a garden makes!” Over the summer we had children volunteer to keep up with our Children’s Community Garden. The Children came faithfully every day at 4:00 in the afternoon, and at times they would bring their friends as well. They watered, pull weeds, and pick vegetables and herbs. Afterwards, the children took vegetables and herbs home. They were given projects to do at home, like making a salad with all the vegetables they were given and to write down the recipe. Witnessing their expressions, to hear and see our members support when the children were in the garden was a great reward. A volunteer wrote a letter saying “Thank you for allowing us to eat”.

This year the Farmers Market has grown and continues to be an affordable access to healthy choices. We’ve had requests to stay open later and to have a farmer’s market on Saturdays. We will consider these requests for next year’s season. Our Farmer’s Market will remain open until October 28th.

On September 27th the YMCA will host its last play streets of the year. Play streets is going out with a big bang. We added fitness challenges such as a jump rope mania. Where kids and families have a chance to jump, jump and jump and beat out the time. Also we added two new obstacles to challenge kids of all ages. Involving kids and families in recreational activities in the previous Play Streets was our goal and we have exceeded it… What a wonderful year of Play Streets!

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Yum to Come!

Big changes are happening in Trenton – salad bars and fresh fruits & veggies are in high demand!

This year, 9 of the 15 elementary schools in the District are applying for the Fresh Fruits and Veggies Grant, which will bring healthier snacks to their students at times other than breakfast and lunch.  While we celebrate the opportunity for our elementary school students we do not want to forget the importance of fresh fruit and veggies for our teenagers! The salad bar that will be installed at Trenton Central High School-West will be the fourth salad bar we’ve provided to the district in two years.  This healthy food movement changing our districts culture for the better – the importance of having healthy food for students to eat, both for their health and their academic performance, is being recognized!

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The New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids – Trenton had its very first District Wellness Committee meeting on April 11th.  The Committee aims to pass a District-Wide wellness policy to foster a health-centric culture within Trenton public schools.  To start off, they’ve created a survey that will capture each schools readiness and ability to implement more physical activity and increase the consumption of healthy foods.  This idea took off quickly, and the following Monday, the Committee met with the Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Office to present their idea for the survey, as well as discuss the creation and adoption of a district wellness policy.  It was well-received, and later this week, they will receive feedback on the survey.  The first reading of the proposed District Wellness Policy will be later this month.

Trenton “Springs” into Wellness at Union Baptist Church

New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids – Trenton attended the Union Baptist Church (UBC) “Spring into Wellness” Health Fair on Saturday, April 12, 2014.  It featured a panel discussion about how people can be healthy in every aspect of their life, with representatives from the Trenton Health Team, Capital Health, National Marrow Donor Program, Rite Aid, and a New Jersey state licensed psychologist/co-pastor of Grant Chapel A.M.E. Church.  The speakers touched on many topics relevant to our projects focus on physical activity and nutrition.  Union Baptist Church is one of the three faith-based organizations that volunteered to perform walking audits with us last year.  Not only did they participate in the audits, but they also signed a wellness policy for their organization.  We are so proud of UBC for hosting this health fair and making their wellness policy an integral part of the spiritual journey.

One of the panelists at the UBC event was Margaret Creevey, RN, BSN, MSN, AOCN; a gastrointestinal (GI) Cancer Nurse Navigator.  She spoke about colorectal cancer, and the precautions that can be taken to lower our risks of developing these life-threatening illnesses.  She told the audience that an important part of the prevention of GI cancers is, among other things, to maintain a healthy body weight through healthy eating and physical activity.  When asked if creating a more pedestrian-friendly streetscape would help increase physical activity levels, and as a result decrease the risk of colorectal cancer, Creevey said, “If we could have safe places to walk or ride a bike [at least 30 minutes a day], the better off people would be at preventing GI cancer.”
This information couldn’t have been shared with us at a better time – the City of Trenton is currently working on their Bike/Pedestrian plan, which will be incorporated into the new Master Plan.  With the City considering how they can make the streets safer for all travelers, and our soon to come streetscape improvements, Trenton residents will be able to get outside and get active!

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“If we could have safe places to walk or ride a bike [at least 30 minutes a day], the better off people would be at preventing GI cancer.” 

Margaret Creevey, RN, BSN, MSN, AOCN speaking to the attendees of the UBC “Spring into Wellness”  Health Fair, about how they may be able to reduce the risks of colorectal cancer, some of the advice  including maintaining a healthy weight and getting 30 minutes of physical activity per day.

Wellness is the New Black

Spring may not have sprung, but the relationship between the Ocean County YMCA (OCYMCA) and St. Aloysius School in Jackson, NJ is budding!   The buzz and the creativity between these two organizations has just begun! The OCYMCA is about creating healthy families, raising awareness about the childhood obesity epidemic and, improving the overall wellness for the community it serves. St. Aloysius School has the same passion and together we know we will make a difference in each of the children and families lives we serve.

We are just in the beginning stages of creating an effective policy that will address the overall health, wellness, nutrition and physical activity of the students and faculty of St. Aloysius School.

The beginning phase of collaboration will begin by implementing the CATCH (Coordinated  Approach to Child Health) curriculum during student gym classes. CATCH is designed to promote physical activity, healthy food choices and prevent tobacco use in school-aged children. CATCH employs a holistic approach to child health promotion by targeting multiple aspects of the school environment in grades K-8. The four core components of CATCH include (1) the Eat Smart nutrition program, (2) physical activity and healthy eating curriculum, (3) the CATCH physical education program, and (4) a family education and involvement program.

The OCYMCA staff will begin training the teachers and staff at St. Aloysius School throughout the next year and will continue to provide support for the school team.  In addition, we will be hosting Family Fun Days for the St. Aloysius families to help engage the entire family in taking strides to their overall family health and wellness.  The approach is fun, engaging, and brings an entire family together, with the goal to increase their physical health and encourage better eating habits.

We have many exciting and creative ideas to keep children moving and bring families together! Stay tuned and keep watching the wellness movement.  The buzz has just begun!

Salad Bars and Safer Streets in Trenton, NJ

The focus of New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids – Trenton is to prevent childhood obesity through the implementation of environmental and policy change.  Our leadership team is directed by the Trenton Area YMCA and Isles, Incorporated.We have been working to “make the healthy choice the easy choice” for our youth and their families for over a year, and plan to build upon our successes.

Let’s take a trip back to last year and recap what was accomplished in both the physical activity and nutrition strategies:

Last year, we proposed a physical activity strategy to team up with church congregants and hold walking audits to analyze the City’s streetscape around three public schools in Trenton, to identify possible improvements that could be made to turn the busy, vehicle-centric streets into safe Complete Streets that students and citizens could travel safely.

Below are some photos from those walking audits, where we found LOTS of improvements to be made!

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Overgrown foliage blocks the sidewalk and obstructs the motorist’s vision of pedestrians and vice versa.

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No handicapped-accessible ramp – NOT safe for wheelchairs/power chairs, strollers, etc!

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No designated parking shoulders for vehicles, so vehicles park directly on the sidewalk, obstructing pedestrians and blocking motorist’s view of pedestrians.

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Maybe the scariest find of the walking audits – This telephone pole is split wide enough to fit a head though!

A checklist was created from the walking audits to be fixed.  This year, we plan to fix those items on the checklist.

Also, last year we proposed a healthy nutrition strategy of implementing five wellness policies into active faith-based organizations around Trenton.  As a result, ministries and their congregations would have healthier food choices at church-based events, youth-based activities, child care centers and more.  The policies would also promote physical activity along with healthy nutrition.  We were successful in getting our wellness policies adopted and implemented at most of the activities run by these faith-based organizations.

This year, our healthy nutrition strategy is to install a salad bar into the cafeteria of Trenton Central High School – West Campus.  The salad bar will be stocked and maintained FREE OF CHARGE by the school’s food provider, and will introduce the students to healthier lunch options they haven’t had before.  We have installed salad bars in three (3) other public schools in the area, and have observed much success, so we are very excited to give these healthy options to another school!

We are very thankful to be able to implement our physical activity and nutrition strategies for a second time; stay tuned for updates!