This summer, the New Jersey Healthy Kids Initiative (NJHKI) worked both on and off Rutgers campus to educate local youth about nutrition and its importance in overall health. Partnerships with Scarlet Kids summer camp on Cook Campus and New Brunswick’s New Brunswick Fit summer wellness program granted dozens of kids and teens access to interactive and invaluable nutrition education.
New Brunswick Fit is a free Strength & Conditioning summer camp held at New Brunswick Middle School for local youth, 13-18 years old. New Brunswick Police Captain Michael Bobadilla spearheads the initiative with funding from New Brunswick Tomorrow and New Brunswick Public Schools. Captain Bobadilla connected with NJHKI after learning about its nutrition program with FranklinFit, a police-led youth health initiative in Franklin township, and thought his camp participants could greatly benefit from a well-rounded program that included nutrition literacy in addition to its already existing physical fitness aspect. NJHKI was thrilled to offer nutrition information through hands-on lessons and activities to the camp’s youth athletes.
“New Brunswick Fit was able to provide physical fitness, nutrition, and mentoring services thanks to our partnerships with several community partners,” said Captain Bobadilla. “NJHKI was able to provide not only nutrition information but also brought healthy food ingredients for the opportunity to learn how and why to prepare different snacks. I am beyond thankful and grateful for our partnership with NJHKI.”
NJHKI student workers educated campers on topics like macronutrients and the benefits of protein, carbohydrate, and fat to sport and physical fitness. Twice-a-week nutrition lessons were adopted from the Rutgers Culture of Health School Program and overseen by Erin Comollo, NJHKI’s Program Development Administrator and Certified CrossFit Level 3 Trainer, to deliver age-appropriate, current, and accurate nutrition information to young student athletes. With this summer program’s success, NJHKI looks forward to continuing this community partnership next summer.
“Partnering with Captain Bobadilla and New Brunswick Fit was a no-brainer,” said Comollo. “His desire to increase community youth engagement through fitness, nutrition, and mentoring was a natural fit for NJHKI’s mission to improve child health. We are confident that NBFit will continue to grow and make a positive impact on the lives of many New Brunswick youth.”
Scarlet Kids, an initiative of the Rutgers Psychology Child Development Center, is a summer camp for children entering first through fifth grades. The camp, located at the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health on Cook Campus, keeps kids engaged throughout the summer months with a variety of activities and NJHKI was thrilled to offer stimulating and fun nutrition lessons.
“This very impressionable stage of childhood provides the opportunity for these kids to learn about food in a way that can set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating habits,” said Gabe Hoffman, one of NJHKI’s student employees who helped facilitate lessons. Lessons delved into topics including food composting, animal and plant proteins, whole grains, and healthy nutrient portions.
Rohan Hublikar, a New Jersey Medical School student who volunteered with NJHKI this summer, led campers through activities that encouraged food curiosity and introductions to new foods they may not have previously seen or eaten, like kiwi and black rice.
This is the second year that NJHKI has delivered nutrition lessons to Scarlet Kids, not only imparting healthy nutrition education to local youth, but also offering Rutgers undergraduate students the opportunity to contribute to the greater public good, one of Rutgers’ Four Pillars of Excellence.
NJHKI offers a variety of programs and projects throughout the year to help promote healthy physical activity and eating habits in New Jersey youth.