Families Activas y Saludables/Families Active and Healthy (FAH)- Lessons Learned during Year 2
We like to refer to the sixth and final blog of 2019 as “lessons learned” as we implemented the twin strategies of healthy eating and active living during the calendar year.
Our healthy eating strategy centered on growing a school fruit and vegetable garden implemented within PROCEED’ Preschool 1 and Family Success Center programs and services offered and promoted a multi-generational involvement toward healthy eating. We converted three parking spots in our garage, approximately, 382 square feet, into our green space. During Year 2, we were prepared to grow the herbs and the vegetables that we wanted to grow and the element of surprise was minimal. We already knew our neighborhood cat, the naughty squirrels, and the birds that loved to snack on the sunflower seeds from year 1. They are our old friends and always welcome into the garden. What we did during Year 2 is use the green space, our Zen spot, into a therapeutic learning space for youths in our Youth Counseling program. In partnership with 4-H, Mr. Jim and our own “in-house gardener,” Mr. Arquelio at PROCEED, we provided a series of “green thumbs,” hands-on experience to the youths to plan, plant, and tend a garden. They planted seedlings, learned to care for herbs, and took home a small pot of herbs to tend to…along the way, their parents joined in when they could and were surprised to see what we grew, but more surprised on their kids’ involvement in the garden. We were able to grow a lot of green peppers, mini tomatoes, and lemon grass.
We learned a valuable lesson about the modern youth along the way-i.e. they are all “Screenagers” (screen time is sacred), but when provided the right environment and motivation they can distance themselves from the ubiquitous cell phones and engage in deep conversations on plant growth, what healthy eating means for them, using plants and herbs as beauty products, how they were going to stay healthy and so on!!! The group of teenagers we worked with made the Wednesday sessions fun and interactive!!!
Our active living strategy involved opportunities for movement for all family members and their social networks. From January through November, we hosted a total of 71 Zumba sessions at our Family Success Center. When we started spreading the word on free Zumba classes, twice a week, at PROCEED, we were uncertain as to what the rate of attendance would be, and how dedicated the participants would be. We are happy to report that on an average we had 7 attendees per session and participants expressed an interest in having after work sessions too! The classes have become one of the most popular offerings through the Family Success Center. Participants in a one-on-one conversation with Project Director shared that they try to exercise at home if they miss a session due to another engagement. A few have even made a lifestyle change and eating more vegetables, looking at healthy options during meals, and drinking more water. As an incentive to the regular Zumba participants, we provided them incentive gift cards to purchase healthy snacks and water during the holidays. At our agency, and in the community, through the Zumba classes we have created a space that residents can use to exercise and stay healthy.
We will continue to engage the community in active living at the FSC through exercise programs. These participants were also provided an opportunity to learn to shop healthy foods on a budget and prepare healthy meals. The lesson we learned is that with the right approach and incentive making change is possible, and incremental changes are sustainable!!!
About the Grantee
PROCEED's mission is to provide and connect people to educational, health and human services; and enhance the capacity of individuals and organizations to offer quality programs and services to their communities locally in NJ, and throughout the United States and its territories.
Cohort: North 4
Funder: Atlantic Health System