Cape May County

PROGRAM NAME


Healthy Choices on the Go


County/location:
Cape May County

Objective:
To increase access to healthy foods and opportunities for indoor and outdoor physical activities through policy and environmental changes at public venues.  Our overarching goal:  To make a healthy choice the easy choice.

Budget/Grant:
$15,000.

Time Frame:
January 1, 1011 – December 31, 2011

Partners:
Funding Partners:  Robert Wood Johnson, the YMCA, and the Shaping NJ Partnership.  Community Partnerrs: Marilou Rochford, Director Rutgers Cooperative Extension; Mark Mallet, Middle Township Administrator; Mike Laffey, Director, Cape May County Park/Zoo; Nancy Mauro, CMC Engineering and YMCA; Marie Quinn, ARAMARK.


Accomplishments:

  • Middle Township worked with its food service vendor (ARAMARK) to effect a policy change and introduce  healthy food and beverage choices at the Cape May County Park & Zoo Café, Middle Township Administration Building, and Davies Sports Complex.  ARAMARK built its new “grab and go” concept around healthy choice menus, offering freshly made sandwiches, fruit, yogurt, veggies and salads, as well as more non-sweetened beverages. The changes boosted public awareness of healthy food choices and increased café sales year-over-year.
  • To increase the safety and use of the bike/walking path from the CMC Park & Zoo through Middle Township and the outdoor fitness center at the CMC Park & Zoo, project partners:
  • Improved signage throughout the park and along the Middle Township  bike path to highlight outdoor fitness areas and all the trails (e.g., “Good Health Is Your Choice”), and
  • Corrected a safety issue with the bike/walking trail access at a major road crossing so that walkers and bike riders now have improved visibility at entrances on both sides of the road and cross at a traffic light.
  • To encourage children and their families to increase physical activity in their daily lives, volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps, the Department of Health and the CMC Park & Zoo installed a Born Learning trail (an interactive trail for adults and children donated by The United Way) in the CMC Park, surrounding a popular playground.  The Born Learning program is designed to build pre-literacy skills and school-readiness in young children.  The trail features 10 colorfully stenciled activity stops with signs that explain the activities for adults to do with their children.

Lessons Learned:

  • Small changes can have a big impact on public access to healthy life choices.
  • By engaging doubters and skeptics in the process (e.g., mapping out the Born Learning trail, painting the trail), they became more invested in helping the project succeed and even became advocates for healthier choices. Over time, interest grew and more and more people became involved in the project.


Phase Two:

We continue to seek ways to expand healthy choices.

  • To further increase use of walking paths, the project team focused next on creating walking groups and clubs. In March 2012, the team launched an indoor walking program using a SNAP-Ed DVD with Leslie Sansone.
  • The CMC Department of Health and the N. J. State Cancer Early Education and Detection Program teamed up to organize its first Breast Cancer Awareness Walk on May 5, 2012, using the Zoo/Middle Township path.  Despite bad weather, more than 50 walkers participated.
  • Future plans include mapping all bike and walking trails throughout the county to help promote healthy lifestyles.

For more information, contact Joan J. Rowland RN BSN, Health Educator/Field Rep/MRC Coordinator, Cape May County Community Health Planning Division, at jrowland@co.cape-may.nj.us or 609-465-1225.