Aetna Foundation grant funds healthy initiative for students
With a $250,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation, Jersey Cares, a nonprofit organization committed to creating impactful projects that address critical community-identified needs, launched the Health in the Community Initiative at Sussex Avenue Renew School in Newark, New Jersey. This innovative experiential learning program encourages a culture of health in schools by providing nutrition and fitness education for kindergarten through fifth-grade students.
The Health in the Community Initiative will directly impact students across three Essex County elementary schools with extended benefits to families and peers. Key aspects of the program include the building of greenhouses and gardens at each school, providing onsite gardening programs to instruct the students on the importance of healthy eating, as well as creating enhanced outdoor spaces to encourage active play as classroom and activity-based fitness workshops are provided.
“Health in the Community is a ground-up program that will be evolved through the participation of parents, guardians, teachers, and school leaders, built with the incredibly generous support of the Aetna Foundation and powered by the intention to give children a real, sustainable likelihood of a healthy and brighter future,” said Brian Dean, President and CEO of Jersey Cares. “This initiative is a compelling opportunity to demonstrate what all of us can accomplish by working together as individuals and as organizations.”
The Aetna Foundation, a philanthropic arm of CVS Health, presented the check to Jersey Cares and kicked off the initiative by having more than 30 Aetna and CVS employees volunteer alongside Sussex Avenue students in activities that included raised garden bed assembly, a fit and fun exercise workshop, and school library organization.
For 25 years Jersey Cares has worked to address social determinants that affect the health outcomes of students in Newark Public Elementary schools, helping hundreds of nonprofits recruit and develop volunteers. They expanded their program offering in 2006 to engage nearly 2,000 volunteers and gave slightly over 4,000 hours of service to programs that engaged more than 26,000 volunteers to produce over 89,000 hours of service last year.
“At CVS Health, we know that the path to good health starts locally in our schools and homes. Today we are excited to have the opportunity to work collaboratively with the team at Jersey Cares on this important initiative with the Newark school system,” said Dr. Garth Graham, President of the Aetna Foundation. “The Health in the Community Initiative is an innovative project that will give students and their families’ access to the tools they need to make good decisions when it comes to nutrition and fitness, critical components to establishing long-lasting health and wellness.”
The Aetna Foundation grant to Jersey Cares builds upon the tradition of community investment by CVS Health and Aetna and advances our purpose of helping people on their path to better health. Learn more about the Health in the Community project, here: https://www.jerseycares.org/.