By Faith Qualshie, program coordinator, NJ Healthy Kids Initiative (NJHKI), Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health
New Jersey Healthy Kids Initiative (NJHKI), in collaboration with the Rutgers New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health, and the Child Health Institute of New Jersey, is focused on improving child health by conducting evidence-based research, education, and practice in nutrition and physical activity. Central to NJHKI’s mission is partnership with and inclusion of families and communities.
To celebrate National Nutrition Month®, NJHKI, in partnership with Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s Department of Family & Community Health Sciences, has launched the Rutgers Culture of Health School (RCHSP) program in Edison Township public elementary and middle schools. The program’s goal is to foster and promote healthy lifestyles in today’s youth within the context of physical activity and nutrition education and has been made possible through funding from The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey. The RCHP program is educating children and adolescents about the importance of making informed food choices and providing them with resources to develop healthy eating and physical activity habits.
Classroom nutrition lessons include topics such as hydration, nutrition labels, food safety and kitchen utensils. Physical literacy topics that are being covered include coordination, strength, balance, and heart health. Students engage in a series of age-specific, hands-on activities to understand and apply each lesson’s key concepts. NJHKI hopes to implement this program’s curriculum in as many schools as possible to help make New Jersey kids the healthiest in the nation.
In addition to its school program, NJHKI is also celebrating National Nutrition Month® by working with Price Family Fellows, Rutgers students who are current or former foster care youth with experience in the child welfare system as an adolescent. In mid-March, NJHKI Student Ambassadors will provide Price Family Fellows with nutrition lessons and culinary practice to promote autonomy and healthy eating habits.
NJHKI is also working on various future projects to foster sound nutrition and physical habits in children and adolescents. In partnership with Franklin Township and law enforcement, NJHKI will roll out a nutrition education program to Franklin Township youth, providing participants with active lessons and practical opportunities to develop healthy eating practices, while also promoting positive relationships between local police and the public. Another future project aims to promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables by families in New Brunswick by working with Snap2Save, a nationwide health and wellness incentive program.