Partner Powers: New Jersey

Superheros Among Us: Last week I had the pleasure to attend a New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids strategic planning meeting where I got to meet many of New Jersey’s real life superheroes. If you were there, you know that as part of the introductions, we all got to declare what our super power would be if we had one. They were all noble. Some were global and idealistic like world peace, some were practical like food access or Complete Streets for all, and
 some had to do with the ability to really get stuff done - whether by being cloned, having the ability to fly or teleport or to be an uber multi-tasker. Everyone acknowledged not only the amount of work required to significantly reduce factors leading to obesity in New Jersey’s kids, but their passionate desire to be part of the collective process.

Janet Heroux, physical activity specialist with the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services’ Shaping NJ program said, “If I had a super power, I would take the TONS of money we put into cleaning up preventable messes, into preventing the messes in the first place!"

What I walked away with that day was that each one of us really is a superhero in our own way. As the meeting wrapped up and people filed out, darned if I didn’t see a few capes fluttering behind.

New Jersey Childhood Obesity Study

The New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids is part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) work to strengthen childhood obesity prevention activities throughout the state. Technical assistance and direction are provided by the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, which serves as the state program office. Community partnerships with leaders from city government, business, non-profit and healthcare have engaged local and state partners including the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, The Food Trust, Rutgers Center for Health Policy and ShapingNJ to improve access to healthy foods and increase opportunities for physical activity.

Together, these power partners helped to develop a strategic plan for the state based on the findings from the New Jersey Childhood Obesity Study. The study is focused in five New Jersey communities where children are at the highest risk for obesity. Here’s a little snapshot of some of the super things that are happening:  

    • Camden:  United Way Award Recognition
    • Newark:  The Newark School District has signed up to pilot the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy School Program
    • New Brunswick:  Initiated a joint-use agreement with a local church to provide indoor recreational facilities for children participating in a seasonal outdoor structured PA park program
    • Trenton:  Passage of a Complete Streets Policy for the City and for Mercer County
    • Vineland:  Healthy Food Options that were created through the partnership with NJPHK-V and The Food Innovation center has been added to the Vineland School District’s School Lunch Program

For more information about the program, contact Anita Bennison, associate executive director of the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance at

I am excited to have the opportunity to collaborate on the Safe Routes to School state network project with local communities and partners to create policy and environmental change that will help to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic.

Your Superhero Kit

What would your super power be if you had one?  Or better yet, what super power do you already have?
For more information, or to join the New Jersey network, please contact me.
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