October 22, 2018 | Tiffany Neal | Building Bridges to Better Health
As Posted on New Jersey Health Initiatives
Over the past two years, we have learned several lessons about building a Culture of Health in Bound Brook and South Bound Brook. One important lesson is that it takes time to engage the community and implement the Blueprint for Action. Some Blueprint strategies are well underway, such as addressing mental health in schools and improving local transportation options. Read our Blueprint for Action here.
Another Blueprint strategy was to develop more free and low-cost programming. As one example, the community coalition partners are leading an effort to start a community garden. This would allow residents to grow their own fruits and vegetables, in addition to providing a venue for community building.
Over the past year, the community garden team chose Rock Machine Field at the corner of West Main Street and Vosseller Avenue as the site for the garden, conducted soil testing, and researched garden needs and operation. We expect that garden plots will be available to community members in Spring 2019.
One community highlight was the National Night Out event, coordinated by the local police with free food, music, and entertainment. In spite of a bad rainstorm at the start of the event, community members still came out to enjoy the evening. Several of our partners also participated, including the Healthier Somerset Coalition, RWJ University Hospital Somerset, Middle Earth, Safe+Sound Somerset, and Zufall Health.
One popular activity was for kids to make their own “healthy pop tart” with fresh fruit. Kids were enthusiastic about tasting different fruits, in some cases for the first time. At the next table, we distributed free bags of locally grown produce. Community members and families were excited to take the fresh produce home.
Lessons we have learned from our work:
Be patient. Building a Culture of Health takes time, and each small step moves us in the right direction.
Celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small. As people hear about successes, they will be more likely to participate.
Keep telling our story to local leaders, community groups, and the public. Ask them to get involved, if only in a small way. Ultimately, community engagement will help Bound Brook and South Bound Brook build a Culture of Health.