Over 100 Healthy U champions and partners from YMCAs and schools from all over the state gathered at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on May 18 to celebrate 10 years of community impact. Healthy U was also formally presented with the 2017 CATCH® Award for Excellence in State Health.  CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) is the nationally-recognized curriculum used in the program. This award recognizes the partnership between the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance and its 36 member associations for Healthy U’s efforts to promote nutrition education and increased physical activity in schools and YMCA childcare settings, advocating for policies that support healthy environments, and convening partners across the state to create a positive collective health impact. Because of the many initiatives made possible by Healthy U, New Jersey kids and families report that they are eating more fruits and vegetables, and consuming fewer processed and sugary foods. They are spending more time being physically active and less time in front of screens.

Attendees also participated in physical activity workshops such as: “Get Focused: Empowering Youth to Read and Exercise Fitness and Literacy Boot Camp” with Golden Martinez and “Yogapalooza: How to immediately incorporate yoga & mindfulness with music, beloved activities, tips, tools and creative relaxation” with Bari Koral and participation games with CATCH and QB54.

The Healthy U program launched in 2008 as a collaboration between The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance with the goal of promoting healthy behavior and preventing childhood obesity through more physical activity, family involvement and nutrition education. “Over 76,000 children and their families have experience Healthy U over the past 10 years at 480 YMCA early learning and afterschool sites and 70 schools across the state,” says Sue Cornell, Healthy U Director NJ YMCA State Alliance, “that’s a collective impact that would fill the stands of this stadium.”

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“It is critical to engage parents to get them more involved with their children to learn about good nutrition and the importance of daily exercise,” said Jonathan R. Pearson, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and Executive Director of The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey. “Childhood obesity can and must be overcome and with the support of more than 100 leaders coming together, it is our collective commitment and vast network of health advocates that will help us reach this attainable goal.” 

The YMCA of Metuchen, Edison, Woodbridge and South Amboy began their partnership with Healthy U in 2008, when the program was launched.  “Our goal is to promote healthy habits that can last a lifetime by demonstrating, and learning the importance of, physical activity and good nutrition”, said Rose Cushing, President & CEO of the YMCA of MEWSA.  “Our children experience games and physical activities that provide an environment for success in skills development and exercise, nutrition lessons are taught through fun circle time and exploration activities, and parents are provided with valuable tips and suggestions to use at home.”

Since 2008, the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey has invested more than $4.7 million statewide to sustain the program through 2019. For more information on this program, contact the YMCA of MEWSA at http://www.ymcaofmewsa.org/about-us/healthyu or Sue Cornell, Healthy U Director, NJ YMCA State Alliance at sue.cornell@ymca.net or visit www.njymca.org.  Follow on social media at @YHealthyU.

The Y is the nation’s leading nonprofit committed to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.