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Vineland Healthy Kids Receives Initial $450,000 Grant Toward Three-Year $1.35 Million Grant

14186386-mmmainNew Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Vineland (NJPHK-V) recently received an initial grant of $450,000 toward a three-year $1.35 million award from the Partnership to Improve Community Health (PICH), a program funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The funds to help reduce chronic diseases such as obesity and address environmental factors contributing to health disparities that currently affect nearly 75 percent of all Vineland residents.

Since its inception in 2009, NJPHK-V has made significant progress in ensuring Vineland families have access to healthy choices. These successes include: creating bike lanes; sponsoring monthly fun and fitness events in the business district during spring and summer months; securing commitments from five Vineland corner stores and restaurants to provide healthier product choices; assisting with the development of a wellness policy and creating a wellness council in the Vineland public school district benefiting nearly 10,000 students.

“This grant allows us to expand our efforts and have an even greater impact on the community’s health by focusing on environmental and policy changes that support healthy eating and increase opportunities for physical activities for all age groups in Vineland,” stated Lisa Scheetz, NJPHK-V project manager.   “Within three years, we expect to see healthier food choices in more corner stores, increased access to physical activity for children, and improved opportunities for the prevention of chronic diseases through clinical and community linkages.”

As part of the “Collective Impact for Health Equity in Vineland City” initiative, NJPHK-V partnered with the Vineland City Health Department, Family Health Initiative, Stockton College and the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA to win the grant.

The PICH awards are part of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) initiative to support public health efforts to reduce chronic diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities, and control health care spending. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will administer the grants, which will run for three years, subject to availability of funds.

United Way Invests in NJPHK-Vineland

The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey selected New Jersey Partnership of Healthy Kids-Vineland (NKPHK-V) as a targeted health investment. United Way will provide $81,000 for next three years to fund NKPHK-V in its efforts to reverse obesity rates among Vineland’s children. A particular focus will be on making it easier for children to walk and bike in Vineland.

In announcing the grant, Alice Woods, United Way executive director noted that “Vineland children are more likely than other American youngsters to be overweight or obese. In fact, despite living in an agricultural community, 90 percent of kids do not eat the recommended amount of vegetables, and the majority of them don’t get enough physical activity.”

“We want to send a BIG thank you to United Way,” said Lisa Scheetz, NJPHK-V project manager. “We are honored that they are supporting the partnership as we work to expand safe routes to school, making more of Vineland’s streets accessible and safe for residents.”

To date, two miles of bike lanes and walkways have been installed throughout the downtown area. The grant also will underwrite bike safety education, such as bike rodeos where children are taught how to safely navigate streets and intersections.

Rutgers COM Student Projects Win Big With ‘Healthy Kids’ Community Partnership

Rutgers ComConvincing kids and parents to change not only their eating habits, but also their purchasing behavior can be a challenge — but it’s one that Rutgers Health Communications students took on last fall. Rutgers Assistant Professor of Health Communication, Dr. Jennifer Warren’s undergraduate Health Communication class partnered with the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Trenton last fall to create a healthy eating initiative at corner stores and bodegas in Trenton. Student winners for coming up with the most unique initiatives were recently announced by the Partnership.

The winning projects included:

  • Buy one healthy food item, get a stamp; after five stamps get one heathy food item free incentive cards (Healthy Corner Store Initiative group)
  • Healthy recipes fridge calendar/aisle cards (Healthy Hero’s group)
  • Healthy pamphlets initiative (Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice group)

The first two marketing strategies have been implemented by NJPHK-Trenton and the Healthy Corner Store Network.

“This announcement represents the essence of service learning and community engagement. Students collaborated with community organizations and their constituents to learn about pressing health issues and to produce community friendly products that are useful now,” Dr. Warren explained. “My students worked hard on this Trenton-based community engagement project to increase health literacy regarding the prevention of obesity at the communal, family and individual levels. Truly, to have some teams’ health communication projects chosen for implementation in bodegas is just awesome. It really makes all the hard work that service learning projects worth it!”

Marissa Davis, project manager, New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Trenton, echoed similar sentiments and described the students as committed to the task at hand.

“New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids–Trenton welcomed the opportunity to work with the Health Communication class on our Trenton Healthy Corner Store effort,” Davis said. “The class was dedicated and used their class time to visit Trenton twice during the semester. As part of the project, they toured our local corner stores and bodegas and conducted a focus group with Trenton parents about their purchasing habits.”

“Together, the class and residents brainstormed ways to increase healthier food purchases made by children and their parents. With nearly one in two Trenton children overweight or obese, this real world experience will prove invaluable to the Trenton community and the students who participated on the project.”

Essex County Corner Stores Provide Healthy Choices

Urban areas across America are often described as food deserts because they lack ready access to affordable, healthy food.

Irvington, New Jersey and parts of Newark could make the case that healthy food has often been more of a mirage — they say it’s out there, but it’s difficult to obtain, particularly for those lacking personal transportation.

But healthy food options are now, or soon will be, right around the corner for many Irvington and Newark residents.

Six neighborhood stores in Irvington are now offering — and promoting — fresh fruit to their customers, particularly children who often stop in on their way to and from nearby schools. The stores are part of an initiative by the city’s health department to create incentives for store owners to stock and sell healthy food options.

In Newark, four corner stores (one in each ward) have signed on to be part of the “healthy food network,” a joint effort between New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Newark (NJPHK-N) and The Food Trust. “The goal is to connect corner store owners and community leaders with the resources they need to increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods in corner stores throughout New Jersey,” said Courtney Price, NJPHK-N project manager. “We want to help store owners stock, promote and sell healthy foods.”

To qualify as part of the healthy store network, stores display sanctioned marketing materials — including recipe cards — to indicate healthy food options; introduce four new healthy food products from two different food groups, and agree to periodic progress-assessment visits. In turn, the stores are eligible for training and technical assistance and advertising, marketing materials and community promotion to attract new customers.

Bryan Moran, the food access coordinator, began canvassing Newark stores last year to recruit owners. Now with the four stores ready to launch, he and Price will be visiting schools and community organizations in each ward to get the word out about the healthy food network and encourage residents to visit the stores and enjoy the healthy products.

“Every day, children stop in corner stores for snacks like chips, candy and soda that average 360 calories each,” Price said. “If the healthy corner stores can encourage even half of those kids to pick up a piece of fruit or yogurt, we can improve the health of children and families in Newark.”

With 10 corner stores in Newark and Irvington taking steps to sell healthier foods, oases are clearly springing up in the northern NJ food desert.

Store Locations:

IRVINGTON, New Jersey:

  • R&R Grocery and Deli, 623 Stuyvesant Ave.;
  • Parkway Grocery, 476 Union Ave. ;
  • D&S Grocery, 54 Florence Ave.;
  • Minaja Super Market, 299 Myrtle Ave.;
  • Pochy’s Deli Grocery, 1345 Springfield Ave.;
  • Sandra Grocery & Deli/Jenifer Supermarket, 458 Nye Ave.

NEWARK, New Jersey:

  • North ward – New Sol Brillante Supermarket, 797 Broadway;
  • Central ward Dreamer’s Supermarket, 71 7th Ave.;
  • West ward – Regio Supermarket, 747 South Orange Ave.;
  • South ward – Chea’s Food Market, 424 Avon Ave.

ABC news

Meet Jaymie Santiago, Project Manager, NJPHK-New Brunswick

Jaymie Santiago lives in New Brunswick, works in New Brunswick, and says New Brunswick is a big part of who he is.

He has been working with and for New Brunswick’s communities and their residents for the past 12 years.

Santiago has a Master of Public Affairs and Policy from Rutgers. He was drawn to issues of food security while working with NJ SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). “Being young and enthusiastic and wanting to teach, I landed in the field of nutrition education, facilitating classes to underserved populations,” he says. “When I learned the stories of why a person eats unhealthily or overeats, I saw the need went beyond nutrition education. For some, it was about the inability to afford healthy food, while others experienced issues around obesity and overeating because it was their way of coping with domestic violence at home. So, there’s a theme of wellness outside the sphere of nutrition and that drew me to looking at issues through a larger lens, such as food systems and how communities become healthy.”

He joined Rutgers Cooperative Extension and was instrumental in creating a collaborative of community gardens in the city. He also was on the initial planning committee that developed the New Brunswick Community Food Alliance. He helped to structure that effort at its genesis: “at a point,” he says, “when people were beginning to talk about food systems, how they interact and how they can be sustained to address the issues of hunger in community.” He also served as co-director of Rutgers Against Hunger, a university-wide initiative focused on offering temporary relief to families dealing with issues of hunger across New Jersey.

In 2012, he came to New Brunswick Tomorrow as director of operations. His work broadened beyond health and food security to include issues that affected neighborhoods and initiatives that aimed to engage more youths. In 2013, he became the project manager for NJPHK-NB.

“The NJPHK considers the physical environment as a way to effect the health of the community. We ask ‘why isn’t it easy to make the healthy choice?’ and then focus on the systemic issues and policies in place that impede a healthy lifestyle.”

Reflecting on recent career highlights, Santiago says, “It’s hard to trump Ciclovia.” This New Brunswick-wide initiative gives residents a one-day holiday from vehicular traffic so they can take back the streets to bike, walk, play games and sports. He is excited by the momentum of Ciclovia and sees it as a “centerpiece for living well and healthy in New Brunswick.” Santiago was a key player in bringing the first Ciclovia to New Brunswick in 2013. Now, he is a recognized authority and provides guidance to other communities wanting to inaugurate Ciclovia.

Looking ahead, Santiago has a full agenda for 2015 and beyond. He anticipates that NJPHK-NB’s work with five houses of worship to draft and adopt wellness policies will serve as a first step in creating a Culture of Health throughout the New Brunswick communities. He hopes to expand this effort to include over 60 houses of worship in time. He also is consulting with schools, day care providers and Head Start to help them adopt HEPA (healthy eating & physical activity) standards. As director of Healthier New Brunswick — a collective of healthcare providers — he is working to unify the work and voice of healthcare services in the community.

He may have grown up in Perth Amboy, but Santiago is rooted in New Brunswick now. It’s where his home and his family is, and he’s helping to make New Brunswick a healthier community for all the families who live and work here.

Building Healthy, Equitable Communities Conference Slated for December 3rd

NJPFHK43For the third year, the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids (NJPHK) and its community partners will host a statewide conference on Wednesday, December 3rd at Pines Manor in Edison, New Jersey from 9:45 am to 3:30 pm.

This year’s theme is “Building Healthy, Equitable Communities” and will focus on providing individuals with tools and best practices to help incorporate health equity into policies and practices to build healthier communities.

Dr. William H. Dietz from Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness, Milken Institute of Public Health, George Washington University will serve as this year’s keynote speaker and will highlight the myths and misconceptions of obesity and prevention in urban and rural areas, as well as communities of color. Dr. Dwayne C. Proctor, director of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Eliminating Healthy Disparities Portfolio will also be a featured speaker. Additional conference highlights include a panel discussion moderated by NJTV News Anchor and Managing Editor, Mike Schneider and will feature Diana MTK Autin of Statewide Parent Advocacy Network; Dr. Robert C. Like of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Center for Healthy Families and Cultural Diversity; Daniel F. Oscar of Center for Supportive Schools; and Dr. Laurie Shanderson of Richard Stockton College, School of Healthy Sciences.

Participants can choose from one of six afternoon workshops:

  • A Fresh Perspective: The NJ Healthy Corner Stores Initiative
  • Community-Based Strategies to Build a Culture of Health
  • Community Health and Urban Planners – Stronger Together!
  • The Cross Roads of Clinical & Community Prevention Efforts
  • Proven Strategies that Promote Health and Wellness
  • Putting Equity into Policy and Practice

More than 300 community leaders, dietitians, teachers, school nurses and social workers are expected to attend the one-day event. NJPHK’s co-sponsors of the conference include: the YMCA, Shaping NJ, New Jersey Department of Health, Family and Community Health Sciences and American Academy of Pediatrics, New Jersey Chapter.

For more information and to register for the conference visit Building Healthy, Equitable Communities.

United Way Bone Run Benefits NJPHK-Vineland

Participants in the October 25th Halloween Bone Run & Walk got a great workout on a beautiful day and benefited the work of New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Vineland (NJPHK-V).

United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey’s sponsored the run held at Parvin State Park. Proceeds support United Way’s targeted health investments in Cumberland County, one of which is NJPHK-V. United Way regards the Bone Run as its signature fundraising event.

From all accounts, the race/walk was “Spooktacular!” A record number of runners and walkers participated. Cash prizes were awarded to the top five male and top five female finishers. In conjunction with the race, participants and observers enjoyed an interactive health fair, music provided by a DJ and a bounce house.

Creating a healthier, more equitable Vineland.

Originally published in The Daily Journal


Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to attain his or her full health potential.

In Vineland, the well-being of our residents is threatened every day due to chronic diseases such as epidemic diabetes and poor disease management, accompanied by an increased burden of cardiovascular disease. Vineland children are also more likely to be overweight or obese compared to other children around the country. The rate of overweight or obesity is highest among our children ages 6 to 11 (40 percent vs. 21 percent nationally).

The solution is not to control or dictate what people eat but rather to expand the wealth of options available. As a community, we can improve access to fresh food and recreation so it’s easier for families to make healthy choices. Studies have proved that expanded opportunities can lead to a healthier community.

Thanks to a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that began five years ago, the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Vineland (NJPHK-V) embarked on a major initiative to help reduce childhood obesity and make our community a healthier place to live, work, learn and play.

By focusing on policy and environmental change, we have made significant progress in ensuring Vineland families have access to healthy choices. Our successes include creating bike lanes; sponsoring monthly fun and fitness events in the business district during spring and summer months; securing commitments from several Vineland corner stores and restaurants to provide healthier product choices; assisting with the development of a wellness policy and creating a wellness council in the Vineland public school district benefiting nearly 10,000 students.

While we celebrate our accomplishments, we must keep in mind the road ahead. There’s still much left to do. Now, as a result of a $450,000 grant from the Partnerships to Improve Community Health, which is funded by the Center for Disease Control, NJPHK-V can take a much bigger step towards wellness. The $450,000 is an initial grant toward a three-year award of $1.35 million and will allow us to expand our efforts to help reduce chronic diseases such as obesity and address environmental factors contributing to health disparities that currently affect nearly 75 percent of all Vineland residents. That’s great news for Vineland residents.

As part of the “Collective Impact for Health Equity in Vineland City” initiative, NJPHK-V was proud to partner with the Vineland Health Department, Family Health Initiative, Stockton College and the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA to win the grant. We will continue to work with these partners and others within Vineland to advance health equity. Within three years, our goal is to have healthier food choices in more corner stores, increased access to physical activity for children, and improved opportunities for the prevention of chronic diseases through clinical and community linkages.

I personally want to thank all of our partners who are helping us improve the health and well-being of Vineland residents. Together, we are striving to build a culture of health that will enable all Vineland residents to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come.

Lisa Scheetz

MS, Project Manager

New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Vineland


Ciclovia Takes to the Streets

Ciclovia_Pic_1Over 4,000 people took advantage of New Brunswick’s open streets on Sunday, October 12. They biked, walked, played ball, talked with friends, skated and climbed a rock wall, among other activities.

During Ciclovia, cars are banished; streets are closed to motor traffic but open to fun, games, movement and fellowship. The New Brunswick Ciclovia area is a 3.4 mile route—6.8 miles round trip.

This was the third Ciclovia since October 2013, and the response from the community was universally positive, guaranteeing that Ciclovia will become a New Brunswick mainstay.

The October Ciclovia saw a slightly altered route, more activity stations, including a bike rodeo and bike exchange, and greater engagement from community organizations. These enhancements resulted in more smiles than ever before, according to Jaymie Santiago, project manager of New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-New Brunswick. Santiago has been involved in the planning and execution of Ciclovia in New Brunswick since the inaugural event in 2013.

The New Brunswick Ciclovia is a joint partnership across public and private sectors, including four major organizing partners who provide strategic direction, financial support, research and evaluation for the Ciclovia. The four organizing partners are the City of New Brunswick, New Brunswick Tomorrow, Johnson & Johnson, and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Following the first Ciclovia, the partners conducted a comprehensive evaluation which revealed that Ciclovia effectively increased the health and wellness of attendees on the day of the event. Those that responded to the survey reported participating in physical activity longer at Ciclovia than when they normally exercised.

No doubt that activity will continue as New Brunswick plans to continue hosting Ciclovia into 2015 and beyond.

Students Get Active in Asbury

Asbury WalkWhen is walking to school a cause for celebration? When it’s Walk-to-School Wednesday in Asbury Park.

Asbury Park is a walking school district which means that all children that attend one of the three elementary schools walk to school every day. But once a month, on a Wednesday, that ordinary walk to school becomes a celebration and a time to recognize the value and importance of walking and biking as a lifelong way to stay fit.

“We begin to develop lifelong habits as children,” said Lisa Lee, school health council coordinator for the Monmouth County Health Department. “Walk-to School Wednesday is a way to create excitement about walking and biking so kids can start forming healthy habits now that will have an impact for the rest of their lives.”

This is the first year for Walk-to-School Wednesday in Asbury Park, but based on the success of the first month, they are destined to become part of the School Health Council’s strategy to increase fitness.

At Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, Walk-to School Wednesday kicked off on October 8 with a National Walk to School Day event. Students and their parents were greeted by Asbury Park Mayor Myra Campbell and “Hopscotch the Rabbit” from Meridian Healthcare, a character mascot that promotes physical activity. They were flanked by Principal Mark Gerbino, Vice Principal William Wells — the administrative facilitator on the School Health Council — teachers and security staff and Sergeant Terry Williams and patrol officers. Children received fruit roll ups and glow in the dark bracelets courtesy of Brenda Carter, the Safe Routes to School representative.

“We couldn’t have dreamed a better day. The community really rallied around the kick-off,” said Lee. “It was a great way to meet parents too and let them know what we will be doing in the future to promote fitness and more fruits and veggies as a healthy way to eat!”

Not to be outdone, Bradley Elementary and Barack Obama Elementary schools also initiated Walk-to-School Wednesday in October. All three schools now have Wellness Councils, advisory groups concerned with the health and well-being of students, staff and the school community. With the engagement of the School Wellness Councils, Lee sees momentum picking up and says each school has plans on the horizon: in addition to Walk-to-School Wednesday, changes are being made in the Bradley Elementary cafeteria to promote healthier alternative snacks. Thurgood Marshall Elementary is planning a bike rodeo for November.

The work is funded in part through a Healthy Community mini-grant from ShapingNJ and New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids. The Community YMCA and Monmouth Department of Health partner with the schools on wellness initiatives.

425 Greenwood Ave, Trenton, NJ  08609 | info@njhealthykids.org | 609-278-9622 | Fax 609-278-9678
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