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Trenton Families Pursue the Rx for Health

October 1, 2014 | Community News, Trenton

RXfor Health1What does it take to sustain a healthy lifestyle?

That’s the question some Trenton families had the chance to answer this summer through Rx for Health, an initiative that encouraged them to “eat green, get active, and start their family on the road to a healthier life!”

Part food fair, part mini-exercise class and garden experience, Rx for Health was created by New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Trenton (NJPHK-T), America’s Grow-A-Row from Hunterdon County, the Henry J. Austin Health Center (HJAHC), Isles Inc. and Rutgers Cooperative Extension SNAP-ED program. The goal was to provide skills and resources so families could sustain healthy habits. Through the Trenton Green Team, a grant from Sustainable Jersey underwrote the 2014 pilot program.

Each Thursday for four weeks in August, children and their families visited HJAHC. Once there, they were greeted by interns dressed like vegetables. They received produce from a local farmers’ market, sampled dishes featuring the produce and received recipe cards so they could make the salads and sandwiches at home. A dietitian provided guidance about healthy eating. SNAP-ED educators presented nutrition tips and food plans. Children got physical, playing hop scotch, Frisbee and jump rope. Each week featured a giveaway apparatus for continued exercise — pedometers were a big hit as were the exercise bands.

After the session at HJAHC, families visited the Isles community garden across the street; they could see how fruits and vegetables grow, taste them in the garden, and pick some to take home.

“Each family walked away with a reusable shopping bag overflowing with cucumbers, squash, peppers, tomatoes — all the veggies in season,” said Marissa Davis, NJPHK-T project manager. They also received directions to corner stores that stock healthy food choices.

One lucky child also rode away on a new bike donated by the Boys and Girls Club Bicycle Exchange of Mercer County.

Most of the families were HJAHC patients. Susan Jones, HJAHC Registered Dietitian Nutritionist initially identified 120 families with children whose BMI exceeded the 85th percentile. “I targeted families who are trying to encourage healthy eating habits and wellness. We wanted to reinforce their efforts with first-quality produce,” Jones explained. As the program progressed, word spread and participation increased as the weeks progressed. Altogether, about 135 families benefited from the produce and 40 families participated in all aspects of Rx for Health. Participation was noted in patients’ electronic medical records. “We hope to track their progress to see if change occurs in BMI over time as a result of the program” said Jones.

The partners will apply lessons learned to plan Rx for Health 2015. “We’re looking at timing and outreach—how to include more partners and more families beyond HJAHC patients,” said Jones.

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