Walking in East Camden for good health and fellowship

Collage of participants walking, stretching, and smiling at I Walk Camden event
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By David Scholnick

On Saturday, July 14, Camden Coalition staff members joined faith leaders from our Faith in Prevention cohorts at I Walk Camden, a two-mile trek led by Mayor Francisco “Frank” Moran through his East Camden neighborhood. The walk was spearheaded by Connect the Lots, a joint effort of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership and the city of Camden to promote good health and celebrate one of Camden’s growing residential and business districts.

The event was a perfect match for Faith in Prevention, which promotes healthy eating and physical activity, and advocates for system and environmental change to reduce the burden of chronic disease among communities of faith in Camden County. Much of our health is influenced by the conditions in which we live, work, and play. An initiative of the New Jersey Department of Health, Faith in Prevention aims to reduce those social risks and strengthen support networks for individuals who need help managing their health.

“The vision is that our congregants adopt principles of exercise and nutrition as daily habits,” said Faith in Prevention member Rhonda Talton at the conclusion of the walk. “We had an opportunity to connect with peers and parishioners in a high-energy, joyful setting. The power of this event is that it encourages fellowship and healthy living, all at the same time.”

The day began at Dudley Grange Park with music from LaMega 105.7 and remarks from Mayor Moran, Valaria Galarza of Cooper’s Ferry, and the Department of Health’s Nashon Hornsby. After a rhythmic warm-up, the group of more than 60 people went for a walk along Federal Street past restaurants and other diverse businesses. “That’s where I met my wife,” said the mayor, pointing down a residential street. The walkers looped back on Westfield Avenue and finished up at the park where lunch was served by Reggae Grill, a Camden restaurant specializing in Jamaican jerk chicken, and fruit smoothies from Get Healthy Camden.

The Virtua Mobile Farmers Market was on hand giving out fresh fruits and vegetables to take home. The Camden Coalition’s Maritza Gomez and Naadia Johnson offered information about our social services database, My Resource Pal, and how to sign up for Faith in Prevention. Walkers were treated to free chair massages and plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Camden’s Faith in Prevention program has been led by 145 faith leaders who encourage and model healthy lifestyles across 48 faith-based organizations, reaching almost 900 participants. A foundational part of the program is the Faithful Families Eating Smart and Moving More curriculum, co-taught in small group sessions by nutrition and physical activity educators along with trained lay leaders from faith communities. Through Faith in Prevention, the Coalition and our partners hope to promote a culture of health and togetherness in our community.

With the help of New Jersey Health Communities Network, we are still taking applications for the year four cohort. To learn more, visit our webpage and download the application packet.

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