BY KATHY CHANG
EWING — Grants from Sustainable Jersey for Schools will boost health and wellness initiatives for two schools in Middlesex County.
The grant funds will help Edgar Middle School (EMS) in Metuchen with equipment for its Walk and Bike to school initiative and help Colonia High School (CHS) students grow more produce to support local soup kitchens and food banks.
“It was one of those ‘one thing leads to another’ events,” said EMS teacher Linda Donohue, who applied for the grant. “For several years we have participated in Walk and Bike to School Day. We have plenty of walkers, but not very many kids who travel by bike.”
Donohue said last year, when she asked some of her students what they could do to increase the number of kids who biked to school, they commented that if they had more space for bikes — currently the school only has one bike rack — more of them would bike to school on a regular basis.
The Metuchen School District has been in the process of achieving Sustainable Jersey certifications for all the schools, which is a certification program for New Jersey public schools that want to go green, conserve resources and take steps to create a brighter future, one school at a time.
When Donohue saw the grant, she jumped at the chance for the opportunity.
“I was really hopeful that they would help us by providing funds for the equipment [and] they came through,” she said. “I’ll be ordering four new bike racks later this week and they should be here in time for our October event. I think the kids will be very pleased that their suggestion led to a tangible outcome.”
The grant will contribute to Colonia High School’s Growing Our Community initiative, which will grow more produce to support local soup kitchens and food banks as well as incorporate produce into the cafeteria, promote nutrition education and enhance in-class learning through cultivation of plants.
Edgar Middle School and Colonia High School were two of 30 New Jersey schools that were selected to receive a Sustainable Jersey for Schools Small Grant of up to $4,000 funded by the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH).
These grants will support school health and wellness initiatives.
“Sustainable schools are healthy schools, and schools that promote health and well-being will see benefits,” said Donna Drewes, who co-directs Sustainable Jersey with Randall Solomon. “These grants funded by the New Jersey Department of Health will support schools as they tackle important health and wellness actions.”
The New Jersey Department of Health is funding the grants through its Maternal and Child Health Services Title V Block Grant. The DOH has three regional partners that will provide assistance and support to help schools successfully carry out the funded project — AtlanticCare for the southern part of New Jersey, EmPoWER Somerset in the central part and The Center for Prevention and Counseling for the north.
Proposals were reviewed by an independent Blue Ribbon Selection Committee. The Sustainable Jersey for Schools grants are intended to help school districts and schools make progress toward a sustainable future in general, and specifically toward Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification.
Since 2015, $706,000 in grants has been provided to New Jersey districts and schools.