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Too Much Screen Time Can Damage A Child’s Vision

digital-eyestrainA new school year is quickly approaching which could mean increased time in front of computers for children. According to an article that appeared on AllAboutVision.com, 94 percent of American families with the kids have a computer in their home and 26 percent of children ages 8 to 18 have a personal laptop.

Children who spend hours looking at computer screens are at risk of developing computer vision syndrome or other symptoms of digital eye strain. Symptoms of computer vision syndrome range from dry eyes, sensitivity to light, neck and back pain and blurred vision. The study also showed that the effects of spending hours looking at screens is damaging, and causes the prevalence of nearsightedness to rise amongst kids and teens.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) has four tips that will help keep developing eyes from long-term damage:

  1. Have your child’s vision checked. Before starting school, every child should have a comprehensive eye exam, including near-point (computer and reading) and distance testing.
  1. Limit the amount of time your child spends at the computer without a break. Encourage kids to take 20-second breaks from the computer every 20 minutes to minimize the development of eye focusing problems and eye irritation. (Some eye doctors call this the “20-20 rule.”)
  1. Check the ergonomics of the workstation. For young and small children, make sure the computer workstation is adjusted to their body size. The recommended distance between the monitor and the eye for children is 18 to 28 inches. Viewing the computer screen closer than 18 inches can strain the eyes.
  1. Check the lighting. To reduce glare, windows, and other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of the monitor. Minimize the amount of light in the room to match the computer screen.

For more information on computer vision syndrome and how to prevent it, visit the American Optometric Association’s website.

Greenwood Ave. Farmers Market Encourages Community to Drink Up

Water Fest

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The Trenton community learned the importance of staying hydrated during the Greenwood Ave. Farmers Market Water Fest Event on July 25th. As part of the special event, many families took home free cases of canned water thanks to a generous donation from CannedWater4Kids, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing clean drinking water to children internationally. Partnership for a Healthier America’s (PHA) Drink Up donated BPA-free water bottles to encourage community residents to drink more water.

Most people don’t drink enough water on a regular basis,” said Marissa Davis, Project Director, New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids – Trenton.

“When it’s hot, our bodies lose water faster than normal, so it’s important to encourage Trenton families to make a conscious effort to drink water—especially when they are more active in the summer.”

As the heat index soared to 100 degrees on the day of the Water Fest, children and adults stayed cool by enjoying the giant and inflatable 22 ft. water slide. Educational water-themed activities like the ‘Sewer in a Suitcase’ allowed market visitors to get a firsthand look at how the city’s water infrastructure operates, highlighting the importance of conserving water whenever possible. Members of Trenton Fire Department led fire truck tours showing children how they use water to put out fires.

To stay informed of upcoming Greenwood Ave. Farmers Market happenings, go to the website and Facebook page. For more information about the PHA’s Drink Up Campaign, visit their website.

Get Healthy Camden Examines Road Safety with a Bike Ride


According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 71 percent of bicyclist fatalities occur in urban areas. Camden is taking action to make biking safer for its residents. The city is becoming a part of The Circuit Trails – a growing network of over 750 planned miles of interconnected community trails, branching from the greater Philadelphia area. The goal is to provide endless opportunities for recreation and commuting.

Get Healthy Camden, the YMCA of Burlington & Camden Counties, Rutgers-Camden School of Nursing, New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and Cooper’s Ferry Partnership were among the organizations represented. Several Camden residents also participated in the nearly 10-mile tour which traveled through Camden’s north side neighborhood and among various highways.

 Ultimately, our goal is to make the bike trails safe and accessible to all residents,” said Valeria Galarza, Senior Project Manager for Cooper’s Ferry Partnership. “We’re even looking to plan a Ciclovia for Camden in the future.”

Ciclovia is a Spanish word that means “bikeway” and is a designated bike route or an event that opens the streets for use by pedestrians and cyclists. Ciclovia began in Bogota, Colombia in 1976, as a way to promote community engagement in public spaces that are free of vehicles.

At the end of the bike tour, the group provided comments and suggestions about the ride. Positive feedback included parks having wider paths that could fit both pedestrians and bikers and clear path markers for the bike lanes. Suggested areas of improvement included providing brighter pedestrian and bicycle level street lighting, emergency call boxes, and the creation of more off-road and on-road bike lanes and trails) to move pedestrians away from cars. Also, bumpy roads are a major safety hazard for bikers.

A second bike tour of the southern part of the city’s neighborhoods and trails will occur in the fall of 2016. To see the Camden and surrounding counties bicycling and multi-use trails plan, visit the Circuit Trails website.

Reversing Childhood Obesity: The Power Is Within Us

May 2014 transformation in progress, marisa and her daughterMarisa Barcia, Program Director at the Garfield YMCA, has a free ride to the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids (NJPHK) Annual Building a Culture of Health in NJ Conference on Wednesday, November 30, 2016.

Barcia entered the NJPHK Facebook contest answering to the query “How Would You Reverse Childhood Obesity?” Her response (see below) was selected as the first prize winner, providing her with the opportunity to attend the 2016 Conference that will focus on “Advancing the Population of Health Agenda.”

The question was personal for Barcia who has struggled with maintaining a healthy weight throughout her life and has seen her nine-year-old daughter, Valentina, face a similar challenge.

“The YMCA and other organizations are providing more opportunities for people to get well,” said Barcia, “but there has to be a spark that ignites that desire from within and that can be harder to come by.”

Barcia subscribes to the philosophy of “reach one; teach one,” meaning that the more personal and involved one person is in the welfare of another, the more opportunity there is to change behavior.

When her daughter’s weight began to climb beyond a healthy level, Barcia offered gentle encouragement and support. “I focused not on her weight, but who she is. I wanted to nurture her artistic side.” That evolved into using fruits and vegetables as art to create arrangements that were eye-catching and mouthwatering. It also offered an opportunity to talk about the importance of proper nutrition.

When Barcia’s mother died, it created a deep hole for her daughter who was missing her grandmother. This was a time when Valentina was apt to ask for ice cream and other treats to help her feel better. “No one is better to explore these issues than me, as her mother,” observed Barcia. So mother and daughter worked through this loss together and focused on making healthy choices.

Barcia also involved Valentina in her exercise. “We walk the track together, and it gives us the chance to talk about what is going on in both of our worlds.” When Barcia taught dance at the Y, Valentina came and watched, learning how to count music and choreograph dance routines.

“All actions are about building her security, her comfort, and her space. I want her to feel OK and not judged. I also want her to see that I care about her wellness. Eventually, Valentina stopped wishing for junk food and sugar. A breakthrough came when Valentina told her mom that she was not going to drink pre-packaged juice anymore. Barcia bought a juicer so they could make healthy juice together.

Valentina is now at a healthy weight for her age and height; Barcia is also fit. But the awareness to self-regulate and self-correct continues. “The inner voice of a child is the parent’s voice,” said Barcia. “It’s so important that kids hear a positive and supportive voice.”

For others who want to be the voice that guides their children in a healthy direction, Barcia offers three maxims:

  1. Have faith that you can do this. You will find a way or create that way. The body is resilient, and obesity is not a terminal diagnosis. It can be changed.
  2. You are enough. You are what your child needs and you have the answers.
  3. Get comfortable with getting messy. Let kids see success and also failure.

Above all, said Barcia, “Be open with your children. Let them see that mistakes happen, but mistakes can be turned around.”

Barcia will be sharing her lessons learned at the NJPHK Annual Building a Culture of Health in NJ Conference in November.

Marisa Barcia’s Facebook contest post: Change does begin with each of us. If we want to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic, this requires each and every one us in the fight to self-reflect first without concessions. Are we the best examples we could be? Are we honoring ourselves? Are we understanding and comfortable with our own confusion, fear, pressures, messaging? Until we shift from the hive mentality to self-reality (a hard, honest look), we won’t solve anything. In doing this, we wake up our inner child archetype. We will not win this fight from the vantage point of an adult. Children are more impressionable than we imagine, but what we forget is we were once too, and all of those impressions are stored in our self-being. We can be in the fight yet unconsciously perpetuate the unhealthy messaging we received as children. The understood fear experience through a child’s lens has the answers waiting. Every project and initiative we offer must be built through the lens of the universal truths. The hands that build them must be viewed through this lens too. Our kids aren’t broken. Our kids aren’t sick. The innate ability of the body to heal has to be the stronger belief that overrides all other expectations in our programs. The minute I look at a child with numbers that state they have an “issue” I have perpetuated the problem. This isn’t sticking a blind eye or rose colored glasses on our problems. How are we going to fix childhood obesity among every other issue we’re facing in the collective? Faith that we already have the answer, faith in healing not managing. If we’ve embodied this feeling of faith, we will win. I’m in the fight for myself. I’ve been all over the map. I created a daughter who was classified as obese. Three years later, she’s not. She still eats cookies. She is sedentary many weekends. What changed? The belief that this wasn’t a life sentence, that her body and capacity to know what true wellness is will be a louder voice than any others in its own perfect time in her life. That she got to see me in the struggle and open and honest about it created the safe space to explore her vulnerabilities and confusion. Mom and Daughter: 1; Obesity 0. We won.”


September is National Childhood Obesity Month

4 Tips to Help Children Achieve A Healthy Weight

childhoodobesity articleOne in three children in New Jersey are considered overweight or obese, and the state ranks 27th in the overall prevalence of childhood obesity. Also, nationally, the cost of childhood obesity health care is a staggering $14 billion per year.

Childhood obesity puts kids at risk for health problems that were once seen only in adults, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. The good news is that childhood obesity can be prevented.

New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids (NJPHK) is working with partners across New Jersey to implement environmental and policy changes that support access to affordable healthy foods and increase opportunities for physical activities that help children achieve a healthy weight.

“Since 2009, we’ve expanded our impact to improve the health and well-being of children in more than 45 New Jersey communities,” said Darrin Anderson, state deputy director, NJPHK. From assisting with the development of community and school wellness policies to renovating neighborhood playgrounds, to securing commitments to provide healthier choices in local corner stores, to creating bike lanes and co-sponsoring fun and fitness events—NJPHK is focused on helping to make the healthy choice the easy choice for children and families.

In honor of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, below are just a few tips to help families’ lead healthier lifestyles:

  • Get active outside: Make physical activity a part of the everyday experience for children and youth. Walk around the neighborhood, go for a bike ride, or play basketball at the park.
  • Limit screen time: Parents can set a good example by limiting their own TV viewing, smartphone and video game use. Keep screen time (time spent on the computer, watching TV, or playing video games) to two hours or less a day.
  • Make healthy meals: Buy and serve more vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain foods.
  • Get involved with school: When parents are engaged in their children’s school activities, their children get better grades, choose healthier behaviors, and have better social skills.1Also, school health activities are more successful when parents are involved.2

Taking small steps as a family can help children stay at a healthy weight. For more information, visit www.njhealthykids.org.


  1. Resnick MD, Bearman PS, Blum RW, Bauman KE, Harris KM, Jones J, et al. Protecting adolescents from harm. Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. Journal of the American Medical Association 1997;278(10):823–832.
  2. Ornelas IJ, Perreira KM, Ayala GX. Parental influences on adolescent physical activity: a longitudinal study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2007;4(3):1–10.

Camden’s Olympic Day Showcases Ways to Keep the Olympic Spirit Alive

Fun, entertainment, and health services were all part of the Camden-hosted “Let’s Move: Olympic Day” at Pyne Poynt Park on June 25. The event was free and open to the residents and offered plenty of space for children to run, play games, swim, and dance in one of the city’s beautiful parks. Health vendors lined walking paths and provided free health screenings and health services information to more than 200 visitors.

“Creating a culture of health has been a big push for Get Healthy Camden and events like Olympic Day and Connect the Lots show residents how important it is to live a healthy lifestyle,” said Valeria Galarza, Senior Project Manager, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership and Project Director for New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Camden.

The Camden Olympic Day event was a great tie-in to the August 2016 Summer Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro‎, Brazil. This year, there are 30 New Jersey natives competing in a variety of Olympic Games and Trials.

Worldwide events like the Summer Olympics also can be a motivator in kick starting a healthy journey in our local communities. Here are five Olympic-sized tips families can do to participate in the Olympic fun– both before and after the Olympics have ended:

  1. Make healthy snacks readily available – Olympic athletes aren’t born overnight! Keeping fresh produce and healthy snacks ready helps the whole family get healthy. When you find yourself craving something salty or sweet, swap these great alternatives for chocolate or potato chips.
  2. Participate in outdoor games – Whether you live in a city or on a farm, there are many games you can play outdoors. Balloon tennis, circus-themed games like ring toss and sidewalk chalk games are ideal for city living. Surrounded by a lot of grass? Try this oversized memory game or a backyard obstacle course.
  3. Go swimming – Swimming is a great activity for families to stay cool during the summer heat. Swimming is also easy on joints and an awesome way to burn calories year-round – not to mention all the water games you can play!
  4. Take walks together – Walking is a great form of exercise and a good way to get moving. No matter your age, take advantage of the warm summer nights!
  5. Have fun as a family – The competitive nature of the Olympics can take over if you let it. Remember to have fun together and try different activities. You can even make Olympic medals!


The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio run from August 5-21. Click here for a full broadcast schedule of the events.

Nutrition Education for Newark Moms and Kids

newarkstory-v2Mothers are instrumental in shaping their kids’ diets; so it’s important that they understand how the food and behavioral choices they make can impact their child’s health from prenatal through childhood.

A summer parenting workshop at the YMCA of Newark and Vicinity is bringing that knowledge to expectant mothers. The round-table discussion gets moms-to-be together twice a week to discuss pre-natal and post-delivery health and nutrition.

Meanwhile, YMCA campers ages seven through 12, are also learning about nutrition and trying their hand at food preparation every Thursday.

Christina Pin, a Montclair State University graduate student who is interning with the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Newark (NJPHK-N) this summer, is facilitating the two nutrition programs. Pin is pursuing a Master of Public Health and is bringing her knowledge into the workshops to help educate kids and expectant moms.

“Health Promotion Intervention Aimed at Increasing Nutrition Education,” is the formal title of the project, but Pin takes an informal and highly interactive approach to educating both the moms and the kids.

Courtney Price, NJPHK-N Project Manager, works with Pin and helps prepare the curriculum for the classes. “Christina incorporates best practices for providing nutrition education into her sessions in a way that will spark interest for the participants,” said Price. “She explains nutrition in terms the children can understand.”

In week one of their hands-on lesson, the campers made red, white and blue fruit kabobs to commemorate Independence Day. An upcoming class will incorporate math and science by involving the kids in measuring the sugar content of common kid foods like fruit roll-ups and breakfast cereal.

Both programs strive to engage participants and encourage them to make their own discoveries about what’s healthy, what’s not, and why. According to Christina, “What tends to go unnoticed is how nutrition has a significant impact on our daily lives. I hope that what we have been discussing in our sessions will help them make better food choices, which will ultimately help children grow up healthier.”

Art Fest at Greenwood Ave. Farmers Market Showcases the Creative Side of Trenton


Nearly 350 people attended the Greenwood Ave. Farmers Market on Monday, June 27 and previewed art displayed as part of a pop-up gallery entitled “Gear Up with Nature” as part of a special Art Fest event. The gallery contained creations made by students at Artworks in Trenton, a downtown visual art center. The students created silhouettes of desert scenes on rice paper using bicycle parts and paper as stencils in a workshop.

Residents also participated in various art-centered activities, and SAGE Coalition donated sketchbooks to make the event possible. Sidewalk chalk, acrylic paints, colored pencils and drawing paper were available for children to create their very own masterpieces on site. Market visitors also had the opportunity to have their portraits drawn by a 17-year-old local Artworks artist Bayron Calderon. “The event encouraged people to be creative because art is an aspect of living a healthy life,” said Lori Johansson, Greenwood Ave. Farmers Market Manager.

The Greenwood Ave. Farmers Market hosts themed community events on the last Monday of each month. Future events include Water Fest on July 25, Fit Fest on August 29, Bike Fest on September 26, and Fall Fest on October 24. For more information on the market, please visit www.greenwoodavefm.org.

Vineland’s Field of Dreams and Cucumbers


Build it and they will come. That sort of visioning worked for baseball in Iowa in the film “Field of Dreams.” Could it produce a community garden behind a hardware store in Vineland?

That’s what John Ruga wondered as he surveyed the empty field behind his store and envisioned Vineland residents planting, growing and harvesting fresh produce. Ruga, owner and operator of UR Hardware & General Store, knew that fresh vegetables were often hard to come by in the City of Vineland, and those that were available were expensive. He wanted to expand the garden section of his store, offer garden plots to residents and then watch those gardens grow.

He shared his vision with Kim Tomlin a healthy living activist and community garden organizer, and it took off from there. Within a week Tomlin and Ruga put together a plan for establishing a community garden. They reached out to David Calderetti, New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Vineland Project Manager and Harry Behrens of Impact Harvest, a faith-based organization with a mission to bring fresh produce into the community. Produce from Impact Harvest’s farm fed 160 families last year.

UR Hardware cleared 30 five-by-10-foot garden plots and offered several ways for the community to benefit. Residents could “lease” a plot for $30 and receive a $25 gift card from the store for seeds, plants and garden tools. Non-profit organizations could claim a plot at no cost as long as they committed to planting and tending the garden. Also, UR Hardware created “public” plots for people who wanted to learn about gardening and try their hand but couldn’t make a summer-long commitment to nurturing the plants along. The bounty from the public plots will go to Impact Harvest for distribution to Vineland residents.

“Our aim is to make gardening fun, educational and entertaining,” Tomlin said. “We want to offer the gardening experience and show that these community gardens are growing good food that benefits your health and saves you money. It’s a shared responsibility and social activity.”

The May 14 public kick-off was a great success and underscored the fun of gardening. With the help of Impact Harvest and the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA, children learned how to plant vegetables. Everyone enjoyed barbecue, and all the garden plots were claimed.

“This is the perfect intersection of commerce, community organizations and residents working together to make Vineland a healthy place to work, live and play,” said Calderetti.

Meanwhile, the visioning continues. “We will begin experimenting with vertical gardens and learning gardens,” Tomlin said. We want to introduce people to a different way of life, with fun for everyone coupled with a level of commitment to see the garden through its season.

Link to community news article—The Grapevine. NOTE—you have to scroll down to “It Takes a Community”: http://grapevinenewspaper.com/2016/03/

Vineland Continues to Ensure Safe Routes to Schools

Live Healthy Vineland recognizes that funding one infrastructure project focused on the construction of new, or the enhancement of old pedestrian and bicycling facilities, will not be enough to change behavior and shift culture.

That’s why New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Vineland (NJPHK-V), Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA, Vineland City’s Health and Engineering departments, and Vineland Public Schools—together applied for a second Safe Routes to School Infrastructure Grant. The goal is to continue the process of creating safe travel corridors for children to walk and bike to and from school. The grant focuses on the safety of children within a two-mile radius of a K- 8 elementary school, but the infrastructure projects facilitate travel for all residents in the community.

“Vineland’s priority is increasing the safety of all those who bike or walk or would like to do so,” said David Calderetti, NJPHK-V project manager.

The first phase of infrastructure improvements focused on the area surrounding Gloria M. Sabater Elementary School, located in the center of Vineland where most of the pedestrian and vehicular activity occurs. The next phase, when funded, will facilitate safe pedestrian travel along Landis Avenue. “We want to increase visibility for drivers to notice pedestrians crossing streets. We also want to expand the pedestrian and bicycle network that flows off Landis Avenue,” said Calderetti. “These projects will not only facilitate student travel, but also assist others in our downtown area.”

“Safe Routes projects also increase access to foot traffic generators such as bodegas around schools, recreation areas and other amenities,” Calderetti said. “If done correct, improvement projects have the ability to stimulate commerce and enhance the quality of life for our residents and businesses.”

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