Grantee Blog 2020

Changing the Culture, One Step at a Time

In 2017, Partners for Health Foundation funded the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton’s first entre into the New Jersey Healthy Community Network. We focused on policy changes in healthy eating and physical activity in early childhood. Working with the Clifton Health Department, City Green and Melanie Sufchik (MSU), we looked at ways to change behaviors in children, parents and staff using the NAPSACC assessment tool. Today, our early childhood department policies include rewarding positive behavior with more playtime, infusing movement into everyday curricula, serving plenty of water instead of juice, offering creative arts activities instead of sweet treats for birthdays and celebrations and a staff that models healthy eating and physical activity behaviors for our youngest members. Our early childhood department has their own outdoor classroom, a garden, in which children learn to plant, grow, harvest and taste fresh fruits and vegetables.

Wanting to extend the healthy eating physical activity initiative to our afterschool program, we used the National Afterschool Association HEPA (Healthy Eating Physical Activity) Standards, a self-assessment tool. We looked at our content and quality standards (i.e., foods served, physical activities that promote lifelong health and reduce the risk of chronic disease); staff training standards (especially modeling healthy eating behaviors); social support standards (creating a culture of wellness in the organization); program support standards (Management and Board buy-in) and environmental standards (physical space to carry out proposed changes). Our partners, City Green and Melanie Sufchik, have continued to provide support for our efforts. COVID-19 forced us to pivot and change focus. We made healthy food accessible and served as a healthy food distribution center for over 600 families.

Today we continue to strive in our efforts to improve healthy eating and physical activity for our youth, our families, our organization and our community. We could have not done this without the support of our funder, Partners for Health Foundation, our friends at NJHCN (all those resources made it impossible to fail), our coach, Robin Vlamis, our partners, City Green and Melanie, and the Clifton Department of Health. A sincere and heartfelt thank you.

About the Grantee

Boys & Girls Club of Clifton (BGCClifton)

The Mission of the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton is to inspire and enable young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens. For over 70 years, the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton has provided targeted programs that help youth achieve academic success, good character and citizenship, and a healthy lifestyle.