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Grantee Blog 2020

Growing Health at Alexander Batcho Intermediate School

Manville Borough in Somerset County, New Jersey has been identified as a high risk area for obesity and overall poor health outcomes.  As a way to combat this, Healthier Somerset organizations:   Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) Somerset, Rutgers Cooperative Extension and New Jersey Supplemental Nutriton Assitance Program-Education (NJ SNAP-Ed) have partnered to support health and wellness programs at Alexander Batcho Intermediate School (ABIS) in Manville. With an enrollment of over 300 students, ABIS gives Healthier Somerset a strong platform to enact change when it comes to health outcomes. By capitalizing on each of the partner’s strengths, Healthier Somerset has established a plan to engage the town’s youth in promoting healthy eating and physical activity.

In its initial stages, this program has already seen success through the formation of a strong committee – RWJUH Somerset, Rutgers Cooperative Extensions, and NJ SNAP-Ed, which is run in part byZufall Health, and administration at ABIS. All organizations have been work closely since the initiative’s inception to ensure that positive outcomes are achieved. It was determined that the greatest impact would come from directly supporting Special Education classes within the school. Therefore, the district’s Director of Special Services and ABIS’s principal and school nurse have been key stakeholders.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension appointed personnel to work with ABIS and local master gardeners to build a sustainable school garden. These individuals will educate students and teachers on healthy food, good nutrition and food waste. They will support the school in laying the foundation for the garden as well as give them the tools needed to maintain it. NJ SNAP-Ed will lead Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH), a program focused on improving the health behaviors of children through multi-level approaches at ABIS. Through CATCH, NJ SNAP-Ed will bring health and wellness into the classroom by coordinating train the trainers for staff, running demos for students, and hosting lunch and learns/before and after school meetings.

Similar to the rest of the world, COVID-19 has impacted the work currently being down in Manville. The school garden was initially supposed to break ground in the end of March and NJ SNAP-Ed was going to work with teachers from spring to the end of the academic year. As a result of COVID-19, all of Manville Public Schools, including Alexander Batcho Intermediate School, moved to Flexible Learning Days from mid-March through March 29th with the potential to be extended based on state guidelines.

Despite this setback, the committee has worked tirelessly on alternative plans so that this community can still be reached. NJ SNAP-Ed is working to provide online trainings rather than in-person meetings and Rutgers Cooperative Extension and ABIS have discussed the possibility of an indoor garden in case they are unable to begin the outdoor one in the spring. There have been many unforeseeable obstacles to overcome, but the commitment of the Healthier Somerset team will ensure that Manville receives the support it needs so that its citizens can lead healthier lives.

About the Grantee

Somerset Health Care Foundation

Healthier Somerset is a coalition created to improve the health and well-being of everyone in Somerset County. We promote healthy lifestyles through collaboration among 50 partner organizations representing thousands of Somerset County residents, businesses, schools, nonprofit organizations, public health officials, healthcare providers, government, and faith-based organizations.