Celebrating Success in Our Communities – New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kid’s (NJPHK) third Learning Event – offered something for everyone: from instruction on using Twitter to engage constituents; live musical entertainment about a family making healthy choices to prevent diabetes, to field trips to three NJPHK-New Brunswick partnership sites to see the impact of policy and environmental changes.
The May 23 event also provided participants the opportunity to network with NJPHK and ShapingNJ partners and to share information and lessons learned.
NJPHK Deputy Director Darrin Anderson kicked off the event and welcomed nearly 50 participants to New Brunswick’s George Street Playhouse. Anderson also addressed the progress being made in New Brunswick and throughout the state to prevent childhood obesity and make New Jersey schools and communities healthier.
One highlight of the day was a live performance of “Austin the Unstoppable!,” a musical produced by the George Street Playhouse Educational Touring Theatre, in partnership with ShapingNJ. The show tells the story of 11-year-old junk food junkie Austin, who learns that his mother has type 2 diabetes. Through music and comedy, Austin’s family learns to make healthy choices together, and celebrates how positive change can occur through the power of love, hard work and support.
Participants enjoyed the show, and thought it was a fun and upbeat way to engage students about the benefits of exercise and a healthy diet. Anderson said the musical “is a great vehicle for community and civic engagement across the state,” and shows how families can impact their personal environments by making healthier choices. “Austin the Unstoppable!” has been performed in a number of schools and for community organizations in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. It also can be viewed via YouTube.
Anita Bennison, NJPHK director of administration, also provided a primer on Twitter for attendees. With nearly 75 percent of non-profits on Twitter, organizations are using this social media tool to demonstrate thought leadership, and to engage, connect with and support partners and stakeholders. Not just a one-way communication tool, Bennison explained that “Twitter allows an organization to receive and share knowledge and listen to the conversation.” As an added benefit, Twitter can increase traffic to a website. Bennison encouraged participants to tweet about their afternoon field trip to the NJPHK-New Brunswick (NB) sites, and offered examples of informative tweets.
Following a healthy lunch provided by Elijah’s Promise (see links to recipes below), participants had the chance to participate in one of three tours that showcased the work of NJPHK and its partners.
Shiloh Community Garden is an oasis set against a cityscape. It’s one example of the movement in New Brunswick to get residents engaged in gardening. The Shiloh gardeners discussed their success and Lisanne Finston, manager of the Brunswick Community Food Alliance and NJPHK-NB steering committee member, explained how the initiative is making the food system work for everyone.