Newark is Fighting Childhood Obesity

Fresh Fruit & Vegetables Program for Newark students.

November 13, 2014

Since September, fourteen elementary schools in Newark have been receiving snacks of fresh produce during the school day. As a result of the efforts between Newark Public Schools, Let’s Move! Newark, and the Food Policy Director in the City’s Office of Sustainability the schools are using a federal grant to provide fruit and vegetable snacks to their students.

Last spring, Let’s Move! Newark interns and members talked to school nurses and administrators to encourage them to apply for the Federal Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP).  The schools who successfully applied receive funding to distribute fresh snacks for free to all their students.  The goal of the program is “to expose children to healthy foods, increase their fruit and vegetable consumption and set them on the road to improved lifelong dietary habits.” (Click on this list to see all the 158 schools in NJ that are participating in the program.)

Co-chair of Let’s Move! Newark and Food Policy Director, Elizabeth Reynoso accompanied Janet Celi, from the NJ Department of Agriculture the agency which administers the federal program, to see how the program works.

They witnessed principals, teachers, and students working together to distribute fresh broccoli, sugar snap peas, bananas or grapes to classrooms.  Teachers incorporated nutrition education into the classroom while the snacks are distributed or students shared fun facts about the day’s fruit or vegetable over the PA/loud speaker system throughout the school.  Sussex Avenue Renew School’s creative administrators play music during the distribution of the snacks, getting students and teachers up on their feet dancing!  The implementation of the program varies from school to school and the best programs create an environment where the discovery of uncooked veggies or fruit is both fun and satisfying to young taste buds, helping them form lifelong healthy habits.

For many students, the snacks bridge hunger during the hours between school breakfast and lunch. For others, the snacks are a welcome and needed break between an early lunch and dismissal from school.  According to a 2013 evaluation of the program, schools reported that students in schools with the FFVP program were eating more fruits and vegetables as a result of the program. Moreover, in an earlier evaluation of the program administrators noted that students exhibited improved cognition, longer attention spans, were less hungry through the day, visited the nurse less, and had fewer behavior problems.  In addition, they consumed a larger variety of fresh fruits and vegetables than students who were not participating in the program, and began to positively influence their families’ eating habits.

Some of the criteria used in selecting the schools to participate include that the program purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables as much as possible and partner with outside organizations to enhance nutrition education.  That’s where Let’s Move! Newark partners comes in. Newark Yoga Movement, for example, can incorporate fun mantras naming the fruit or vegetable consumed at school that day where they provide free yoga. Our Rutgers SNAP-Ed partners will incorporate nutrition facts about the snacks in the education series they are teaching in the schools they serve that are participating in the 2014-2015 Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program.

If you’re school is participating in the program this year and would like to partner with Let’s Move! Newark, let us know!

Thank you for supporting the 10K Run for Healthy Kids

September 15, 2014

Thank you to all who ran the race, volunteered, cheered a runner, sponsored a team, brought a child, committed to increasing your own physical activity, and decided to invest in opportunities for Newark’s youth to reach their health potential.  If you missed the race on the streets of the City of Newark on September 14 here are some photos of our Let’s Move! Newark members in action!10Kcollageb


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August 1, 2014

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Map and Text to Find Free Summer Meals in Newark

June 27, 2014


IMG_20140619_121355_169Let’s Move! Newark member, Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) released the report,Heading off Hunger this week.  In the snapshot of child nutrition in Newark, ACNJ reported that nearly 41,000 students qualified for free- or reduced-price school meals. As we know, when school ends making sure that kids are getting access to meals can be challenging for our families.

The Federal Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) was established to ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Free meals, that meet Federal nutrition guidelines, are provided to all children 18 years old and under at approved SFSP sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children. The City of Newark’s SuNup Food Program, provides breakfast and lunch during the summer months to children who reside in the city and are between the ages of 0 and 18. The contact for this program is: Elizabeth Rainey at 94 Williams Street, phone (973) 733-7608 and e-mail Newark Public Schools also provides a summer meals program. Approximately 4,000 students enrolled in the Summer Plus program at 10 different sites will also receive breakfast and lunch. In their Extended Day Option youth will receive a snack between 3 and 6pm.

Promoting summer feeding sites in our community is one of the most important things we can do to ensure no child goes hungry this summer. The more parents, children, and teenagers know about where sites are located, the more children will come to eat.  So we contacted Sam Read at Share Our Strength who shared with us Why Hunger‘s database to identify 124 sites in Newark that offer summer meals.  This summer we will work to promote these sites and identify others that are not represented here.

View SummerMealB&L in a full screen map

Another option for finding summer meals is through texting. With the help of the Arby’s Foundation, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign partnered with Why Hunger to develop a national texting, mapping and hotline system to help people find summer meals sites.  You can text FOOD to 877-877 to find a site near you.

To learn more about summer meals you can go to this site.  To join us identifying more summer meal sites in Newark or for assistance contact Elizabeth Reynoso, Food Policy Director for the City of Newark at (973) 733-4828 to assist you.

Newark is movin’

February 21, 2014

Welcome to our website. If you are a parent, caregiver, young person, community leader, educator, health care provider and any one who cares about the health of Newark’s youth, we hope that this website will be a resource for you.  We update our events calendar with free activities that our Let’s Move! Newark council members host and sponsor so that you can take advantage of the nutritional and physical activity resources they offer.  We hope to see you at our next event, program, or workshop.