The work of the Department of Family and Community Health Sciences (FCHS) was recognized by the YMCA Alliance, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with a Culture of Health Award.
The award, presented at the Culture of Health Conference in New Jersey, “honors individuals and communities that are creating partnerships and deep commitments to drive local change, ensuring all residents have an opportunity to make healthy choices in their schools, workplaces and neighborhoods.”
According to Kathleen Morgan, chair of FCHS, who accepted the award on behalf of the department, these “Culture of Health” communities have worked through the development of deliberate policies, programmatic, environmental and systems changes designed to help each community sustain these changes over time, with the overall goal of improving health.
Working toward a culture of health encourages addressing the barriers to better health with the goal of transforming neighborhoods, schools and businesses so that good health will be an outcome.
The Culture of Health Award recognizes work in schools to develop school wellness policies and the strategies toward implementation and sustainability. It focuses on using the workplace as a beacon of healthy practices that employ a variety of strategies to address multiple factors that influence health.
FCHS was also awarded the “Team Award Best of the Best” by Rutgers Cooperative Extension for its Grow Healthy New Jersey–Team Nutrition Initiative, a USDA grant-funded project written and implemented by FCHS, in collaboration with the Division of Food and Nutrition in the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
The initiative, which received two cycles of funding from 2010–2014, trained school foodservice professionals on strategic ways to improve student nutrition as well as teachers and volunteers to use school gardens as teaching tools to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among kids. In addition, the initiative provided technical assistance to school wellness teams to create and sustain the school wellness environment.
FCHS faculty engaged in the implementation of the project included Michelle Brill (Mercer County); Sherri Cirignano (Warren County); Alexandra Grenci (Hunterdon County); Luanne Hughes (Gloucester County) and Daryl Minch (Somerset County); Joanne Kinsey (Atlantic & Ocean counties); Marilou Rochford (Cape May County); Sharese Porter (Burlington County); Rachel Tansey (Monmouth County) and Karen Ensle (Union County).
The Grow Healthy New Jersey–Team Nutrition Initiative reached a diverse group of 3,655 students in nine elementary schools in nine New Jersey counties in the first funding cycle from 2010–2012. The second funding cycle from 2012-2014, added early-care and education centers to the initiative in order to engage the state’s youngest learners in healthy eating habits. Four continuing and five new elementary schools in eight New Jersey counties were engaged in this cycle, reaching about 4,200 students, while seven child care centers in six New Jersey counties reached about 740 children.