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Free Report Provides Recommendations for Implementing Successful Corner Stores

The New Jersey Healthy Corner Store Task Force Initiative is focused on increasing healthy food access in areas underserved by supermarkets by linking community partners with corner store owners. The goal is to expand the scope of the program by replicating its success and bringing best practices to more communities in New Jersey that lack access to affordable, fresh food.  A new, free report entitled, “Supporting Healthy Corner Store Development in New Jersey” lays out a series of recommendations by the New Jersey Healthy Corner store Task Force to increase the distribution, promotion and sale of healthy products in New Jersey corner stores. Download a copy of the report here.

Is your County healthy?

County Health Rankings-NJ-1Find out how healthy your New Jersey County is and explore factors that drive your health in the newly released 2016 County Health Rankings Report.

Absence of Recess a Setback for New Jersey Children

Darrin Anderson, Sr., PhD, MS
State Deputy Director, New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids

The absence of recess in New Jersey public schools is a disfavor to elementary school children and a major setback in promoting a healthy weight among children.

Childhood obesity in our country has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Today, nearly one in four children ages 10-17 in New Jersey are overweight or obese which leads to a plethora of health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes and other chronic illnesses that have been generally associated with adults. According to the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research, healthcare costs due to childhood obesity are estimated to cost $14 billion per year.

As a state, we need to encourage active play among children. Recess represents an unparalleled chance to increase physical activity, improve academic performance and foster social interaction among kids. It’s also an underutilized opportunity to improve the overall learning environment in our schools.  When it comes to recess—some schools have it, and for others it’s become an endangered species! As the number of minority students in a school rise; and the lower the income level of their parents, the less time is allotted for recess. In fact, nearly half of low income children go all day without it.

Physical activity also can have an impact on cognitive skills, concentration and attitudes of which are important components of improved classroom behavior. A case study by the Harvard Family Research Project revealed that a modest investment in recess can have a positive ripple effect with visible improvements in several key areas of childhood development. Teachers witnessed how a well-functioning recess could foster supportive relationships among students, create opportunities for meaningful youth involvement, and teach conflict resolution and other life skills.

Over the past five years, the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids and its community partners have made great strides in building those foundations of health by implementing more than 200 environmental and policy changes to increase access to physical activity and healthy eating.  Among the successes are: assisting with the improvement of school wellness policies and councils, renovating playgrounds, installing bike lanes, and encouraging the implementation of Safe Routes to School policies.

Ensuring children live healthier lifestyles must be a collaborative effort between communities, schools, businesses and government. All of us must help to create the change needed to provide opportunities for children to be healthy and to reach their full potential.

For more information, download the following Active Living Research Brief, “Increasing Physical Activity Through Recess.”

Park Hop: Lessons Learned and Applied

From April 9 through May 19, Vineland residents are being urged to “HOP ON” and enjoy a series of family friendly activities at their local parks. It’s the second annual Park Hop, sponsored by Live Healthy Vineland, Vineland Health Department General Mills, Inspera Medical Center and the Cumberland Cape County YMCA.

Park Hop will build on last’s year’s success and be better than ever thanks to lessons learned about promotion and organization and a team of college interns ready to apply them.

“Park Hop 2015 was a new venture and like all new things, some aspects worked well and others needed some tweaking,” said David Calderetti, project manager for New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Vineland and Live Healthy Vineland.

Three learnings concerned timing, organization and promotion.

  1. This year, Park Hop takes place in the spring instead of summer. “Spring events should get residents in the habit of using the parks and also engage families while the kids are still in school,” said Calderetti.
  2. Park Hop 2016 also will benefit from new partners and sponsors and student interns from Rowan and Stockton universities to tackle organization and coordination of activities.
  3. Promotion is crucial. So the interns are flooding the schools with flyers and holding pep rallies to get students excited about Park Hop and the benefits of physical activity.

Activities include yoga at the library in downtown Vineland and volley ball, kick ball and Zumba in the parks. Yoga studios and karate facilities will give demonstrations to perhaps introduce new activities to residents.

“We invited businesses that are focused on health and fitness to take part. We will benefit from their participation and ideas,” said Calderetti. “Moving forward, we’d like to see the community take ownership of Park Hop.”

The April 9 kickoff featured games, prizes, crafts and food vendors from 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm at Howard Pagliughi Park.

Park Hop Schedule:

  • Yoga: Mondays, 6PM @ Giampietro Memorial Park; Wednesdays, 6PM @ Vineland Public Library Lawn
  • Kickball: Tuesdays, 6PM @ Howard Pagliughi Park (Magnolia Park) softball fields
  • Volleyball: Wednesdays, 6PM @ South Vineland Park
  • Zumba: Thursdays, 6PM @ Landis Park

Trenton, NJ is Recognized for its Improving ‘Culture of Health’

DSCN1602Trenton, NJ has been selected as a finalist for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health Prize for its community health initiatives. Out of 200 communities, only 16 were selected as finalists and Trenton is the only New Jersey community to make this year’s list. With the statewide Healthy Corner Store Initiative, a first-of-its-kind healthy farmers market on Greenwood Avenue, and obesity prevention policies including Complete Streets and District Wellness, Trenton has been making great strides in moving towards making the city a healthier and more sustainable place for its residents. More importantly, NJPHK-Trenton has played an integral part in the success of these initiatives.

The RWJF Culture of Health finalists have to meet six specific criteria in order to earn this distinguished status:

  • Defining health in the broadest possible terms
  • Committing to sustainable systems changes and policy oriented long-term solutions
  • Cultivating a shared and deeply-held belief in the importance of equal opportunity for health
  • Harnessing the collective power of leaders, partners, and community members
  • Securing and making the most of available resources
  • Measuring and sharing progress and results

If selected, the city of Trenton will receive $25,000 and the opportunity to share their story with the nation. Winners will be announced in September 2016. To see the full list of 2016 finalists, visit the official Robert Wood Johnson Foundation website here.

Mission-Specific: YMCA Conference Focuses on Social Responsibility

Originally posted on myCentralJersey.com

Communities move from awareness to action with local YMCA programs; meetinig looks at how to do more

MONROE – A Saturday recreation program for children with autism and their families has helped families in Somerset County for 25 years. In Hunterdon County, a Citizen Study Group has helped 33 students become citizens since 2011. The Center for Support, Success and Prosperity has provided medical, spiritual, social and emotional services to Middlesex County’s homeless population for the past eight years.

These varied programs have two key element in common: They take social responsibility seriously, and they happen at Central Jersey YMCAs.

On Thursday, the YMCA’s mission of social responsibility —- and the different ways New Jersey’s Y’s are fulfilling that mission — brought more than 350 volunteers, Y employees and community partners together to discuss what is being done and what more can done to help those in need.

In its third year, the Graham Social Responsibility Conference is a statewide effort that is the first of its kind in the nation, said Bill Lovett, executive director of the NJ YMCA State Alliance.

“The conference is aspirational in that it is designed for both staff, volunteers and community partners to have real impact for positive change in their communities,” Lovett said. “What are some of the programs that can we take home and implement. Eighty percent of people live within three miles of a ‘Y’ so how can we apply ourselves to the issues of social change. It can have quite an impact.”

Sponsored by the NJ YMCA State Alliance, the conference at the Forsgate Country Club shone a spotlight on successful YMCA social responsibility programs, with the aim of inspiring more leaders to find groundbreaking ways to meet critical community needs. As a cause-driven nonprofit charitable organization, the ‘Y’ focuses on strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

“Everyone knows the ‘Y’ as a ‘gym and swim.’ But the ‘Y’ is also here to meet the demands of the communities it serves,” said Gary Graham, namesake, chairman of the conference and the former executive director of the NJ YMCA State Alliance. “We know that when we work together with other community leaders, we can bring about meaningful change. The ‘Y’ can marshal the resources to address pressing social issues such as education, joblessness, drug addiction and child welfare. Through this conference, we want to move more ‘Y’s from awareness to action.”

Hunterdon County YMCA volunteer Bill Taylor said the YMCA has a personal place in his life, ever since he found himself a transplant to the state years ago. Now, as vice chairperson of the Social Responsibility Committee, he continues the mission of the organization that offered so much to him.

“We (the YMCAs) all do social responsibility programs on our own. We always have,” Taylor said. “We do social responsibility everyday. Whether it be the swim programs for the youth — a lifesaving skill — or the aeobics for the elderly. This conference is to try to do more and do more together. To make a difference in our communities.”

The YMCA’s annual social responsibility conference began in 2013, after an anonymous New Jersey donor in 2012 provided seed money to encourage Ys statewide to address social issues, said Anita Bennison, associate executive director of the NJ YMCA State Alliance. One of the grant stipulations was that Graham and his wife, Bonnie, of Medford, organize the events.

“More than anything else, that first conference was a consciousness-raising effort so that people could see that really something did need to be done and that they could do it,” Graham said. “Out of that came small programs that have grown into bigger programs.”

Health and well-being

The YMCA is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,700 YMCAs engage 22 million men, women and children — regardless of age, income or background — in order to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors.

Ravenell Williams, president and CEO of Plainfield YMCA, said the annual conference has offered “great ideas and initiatives.”

“Hearing examples of Y programs that work has been invaluable,” he said. “These are initiatives that every ‘Y’ should be doing.”

YMCA of the USA President and CEO Kevin Washington, the keynote speaker, called social responsibility the “soul” of the organization and explained it was at the core of the creation of the nonprofit. Throughout the years, YMCAs have been the first to establish ESL programs (1856), job training and education including the first night school (1893), support for military personnel and their families, including morale and welfare services, beginning with the Civil War, the founding of the USO and the addition child care services in the 1980s.

“Years ago, when we revitalized our YMCA brand, we formally established social responsibility as one of the three areas of focus. But the truth is, social responsibility has always been a part of the DNA of this organization” Washington said. “In fact, it is what started who we are and what we do. This conference builds upon a great history that we all are attached to and a part of.”

Going forward, Washington said the social responsibility in 2016 for the YMCA includes an “organizational wide commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

“Welcoming all people to participate fully is part of our social responsibility and our mission,” he said. “Here’s the shared intent for social responsibility; to foster social connectiveness, stengthen support networks and encourage investment in our communities while activating resources and engaging people from diverse populations for individual and collective captions. That’s our strategy. That’s what this conference continues to reinforce. People supporting people, investing in the community and engaging in the diverse population.”

Walking through the gallery

The conference attendees opened their day viewing the 28 social responsibility programs in the Gallery Walk exhibit that lined the main conference room before hearing opening remarks from the Grahams, Taylor, who also acted as moderator and Patricia Kelly, founder-president and CEO of America’s Horsewoman.

In developing social responsibility programs, YMCAs are responding to unique issues facing their communities and providing services in critical areas including community health, job training, quality of life, and family services. From social services to advocacy to partnering projects, state YMCAs offer social responsibility programs that include Adult ESL courses, camps for children with HIV/AIDs, access to safe water in the developing world, youth civic engagement and job coaching and senior technology courses.

The Somerset County YMCA showed off its popular twice-a-month, free “Saturdays in Motion” program at the Somerset Hills YMCA that has been offering recreational programs to children with autism and their families for 25 years and the Hunterdon County YMCA featured its Citizen Study Group that has helped 33 students become citizens since 2011. The Raritan Bay Area YMCA showcased its Center for Support, Success and Prosperity that caters its medical, spiritual, social and emotional services to the homeless population.

“We identified the needs of the homeless specifically for day services to move them along the continuum to self-sufficiency,” said Steve Jobin, president and CEO of the Raritan Bay Area YMCA, located in Perth Amboy. “This started out as a once-a-month program and now it has developed into a day service. Right now we are in separate churches and various halls, but come this summer we will create a location for this on Smith Street.”

Jobin attended the conference with Pastor Berny Falcon-Lopez of God’s Army Ministry, one of the community partners for the program. Falcon-Lopez said the program, which began in 2007, forges relationships with the participants as its provides case management and helps them navigate through the various services.

“One family of six was divided,” she said. “Now we have the family in their own affordable Section 8 housing and got the family back together. They now volunteer and provide some of the case management services to others.”

Before and after Washington took the stage, the participants attended their choice of eight workshops on topics such as “Building Bridges, Uniting Communities, Serving All,” “New and Innovative Ways YMCAs are Working Together,” “Sustainability: Making the Case for Support” and “Telling the Story of Your Social Responsibility Initatives.”

Marc Koch, executive director of the Somerset Hills YMCA in Basking Ridge, which is part of the Somerset County YMCA, said he explored the workshop on “Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives.”

“So far we have learned all about what corporations are looking for when funding with community partners,” Koch said. “And all the while being inspired by the great work achieved by our collective YMCAs.”

Community organizations and corporations including The Campbell Soup Co. and Johnson & Johnson were be on hand to discuss how YMCAs can build effective partnerships with businesses. Also, Flemington-based America’s Grow-a-Row shared how YMCAs can work to fight hunger by supplying food pantries with locally grown produce.

“The Y can be a leader in dismantling barriers for those who live on the margin. There are so many ways in which we can work within our communities to create positive change,” Graham said. “This conference demonstrates how we make our communities stronger by delivering innovative programs that support people of all ages and demographics.”

Beyond New Jersey

This year, the conference also drew interested YMCA alliance members from eight other states, including Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio and Maryland. The out-of-state representatives were there to add their own projects and programs to the mix as well as learn “from the best,” said John Gillig, a volunteer from the Kentucky alliance and WaterStep community partner.

“They learn here and hopefully bring it back to their own states,” Lovett said. “Every ‘Y’ is independent and a nonprofit, so they cannot be told what to do, but we at this conference can help point the way. Together, we all get better at doing it.”

Representing the community partnership of WaterStep and the Kentucky Alliance of YMCAs, Gillig said the YMCAs collects donated shoes statewide and sells them to offset the WaterStep budget that in turn installs water purification systems, repairs hand pumps on wells and offers health and sanitation education in developing countries.He added that the experience at the state conference is invaluable as the “NJ YMCA Alliance is on a pedestal to other alliances.

“The Kentucky YMCA Alliance aims to be like New Jersey,” he said. “Really, New Jersey is on a special level.”

For more information, go to www.njymca.org or call 609-278-9622.



What Is a Brownfield?

A brownfield is a site where a plot of land was previously used for commercial or industrial uses and the land may have been contaminated by pollution or waste, but can be used for business or retail developers once it has been cleaned up. (https://www.epa.gov/brownfields)

What are the potential benefits to redeveloping brownfields?

The redevelopment of brownfields can provide many benefits to a community, including an increased tax base, the creation of new jobs, the utilization of existing infrastructure, and the removal of blight. The removal of contaminants in the area also helps to protect human health and the environment.

Submit your questions to NJPHK at info@njhealthykids.org.

Latest on the Zika Virus from the CDC

Zika: What we know and what we don't know.

As the Zika virus makes headlines around the world, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to provide up-to-date news and information about the disease. The site provides a comprehensive resource for providers, consumers and media with information about symptoms, transmission, prevention, travel alerts, surveillance and control and more.


Study Says Having a Younger Sibling May Be Good for a Child’s Waistline

Brother And Sister Sitting On Sofa Together

Is it possible that a two-year old with a younger brother or sister will have a healthier body mass index than a child with no younger siblings? That is what a recent study in Pediatrics suggests.

The study reports that a study of almost 700 children by University of Michigan researchers concluded that preschoolers who experienced the birth of a sibling had lower body mass index scores when they reached first grade than preschoolers without younger siblings.

Click here to read an article in US News & World Report.

NJPHK-Camden’s Galarza Shares Her Pathway to Leadership

V_GalarzaSupport, balance and self-acceptance were prominent themes at the Women in Leadership Network Forum on February 23, sponsored by Virtua, a New Jersey healthcare services provider.

The Network offers professional development, mentoring and learning opportunities for women to maximize their potential. Rhonda Jordan, Virtua Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, described the Forum as an opportunity for women to come together and learn from other women leaders. This was the first in a series of planned events.

Valaria Galarza, Senior Project Manager New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Camden (NJPHK-C), served as a panelist along with New Jersey State Senator Diane Allen, Tracy Carlino, Virtua Chief Nursing Officer and Niketa Thigpen, CEO of ThigPro Consulting. They fielded questions from 200-plus attendees.

For Galarza, the Forum was an opportunity to explain the work of NJPHK-C and also share her story of growing into leadership roles with NJPHK-C, the YMCA and Cooper’s Ferry Partnership.

“I’ve been fortunate to have mentors throughout my life,” Galarza said. “At the time, I didn’t realize how the relationships I had and the guidance I received would influence me. But now, looking back, I see the importance and impact that these individuals have had on my forming how I approach my work and how I work with others.”

During the Forum, many questions focused on balancing the demands of work, home and career. “Being a working mom, I was able to share that there’s not a cookie cutter way to do things. Each woman has to figure out the best way to balance her every day challenges.”

The panelists were able to demonstrate that you can make things work, even if you lack the optimal situation and support. “There are different tracks and paths for everyone,” said Galarza “and if you mess up that’s ok; find a way to restart and try again.”

View video highlights from the Virtua conference here Women in Leadership

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