Action for Fitness in Monmouth County
Monmouth County Health Department, 3435 Highway 9 Freehold, NJ 07728
Reduce and prevent pediatric obesity by developing School Health Councils to promote healthy eating habits and choices, increase fitness opportunities for students, faculty and staff during the school day, improve nutrition education and the nutritional quality of food served at school, and educate students, parents and the community about nutrition and fitness.
January 2011 and ongoing
Funding Partner: Shaping NJ. Community Partners: YMCA, Board of Education, Town Council, PTO, local hospital health educators, Medical Reserve Corps volunteers, Monmouth County Parks and Recreation, Master Gardeners.
The School Health Council at Farmingdale Public School is flourishing and our efforts have been well-received by students, staff and parents. In our first year, based on body mass index measurements, we reduced the number of obese students by 4% and the number of overweight students by 4%. Although not statistically significant, these results are encouraging. We achieved them with the following activities:
We started a weekly Walk-to-School Wednesday program that has resulted in a daily Walking School Bus route—the first of its kind in our county. A second route in town with volunteer adult “drivers” is planned.
We produce a monthly newsletter with local and seasonal ideas to encourage parents to take their kids out to do fun, low-cost fitness activities on weekends and after school.
The Shaping NJ grant has enabled the school to develop an edible garden that provides kids the opportunity to plant and taste new vegetables and herbs. Established in a gated area with a rain barrel, the garden has four planting beds, as well as a butterfly bush to attract pollinators. Its produce won awards at the Monmouth County Fair.
We held a Family Fitness Olympics in October 2011 in which 74 kids and parents participated.
We purchased pedometers for all students and staff and developed a walking program used in the Spring of 2012 that the whole school participated in.
We started a Healthy Cooking Club, run by two teachers, in which kids learn to try new foods and new recipes. The Board of Education is now funding this program.
We created a special holiday program with a pediatrician and chef to help parents learn how they can cook healthier holiday meals and support their kids with increased fitness activities that are low cost and family friendly.
We funded a four-week roller skating program for the physical education department that taught many kids to roller skate.
We funded a nutritional 3D musical program called “Kid Power” that was presented to the whole school in 2012 and gave them a common nutritional vocabulary and goals.
We funded a flat-screen TV that is being used to advertise and promote fitness and healthy eating. We formed a TV team with staff and students to develop new weekly promotions.
We bought a satellite climber for the playground.
- Start with small goals and communicate well to parents, staff and students.
- Develop work teams to work on bigger projects outside our monthly meetings.
- Model the types of foods we hope more kids and families will eat by providing examples of and recipes for creative, delicious and healthy snacks at large school events.
- Share our successes with the media and learn from what’s being done around the country.
- Adapt ideas as needed and don’t be afraid to try new things.
In September 2012, we began a second School Health Council in Belmar, and our grant was renewed. We divided the grant, with a portion allocated for ongoing support of continuing efforts of the Farmingdale School Health Council, and a larger portion allocated to start the SHC at Belmar Elementary School. In Belmar, we are working with school staff, parents and community members to start an edible community garden at the school, and a monthly Walk-to-School Wednesday program to increase fitness and the number of kids coming to eat a healthy breakfast. We are also developing a School Party Policy to limit the amounts of sweets and sugary drinks and increase the amounts of fruits and vegetables that are served at children’s parties and school events.
For more information, contact: Lisa Lee, School Health Council Project Coordinator, Monmouth County Health Department, 732-431-7456, or Lisa.Lee@co.monmouth.nj.us.