Health & Wellness Across BronxWorks

BronxWorks STAFF standing at the Mott Haven Farm Stand with clients
BronxWorks Mott Haven Farm Stand sells fresh fruits and vegetables sourced at local farms.

With a large portfolio of Community Health Programs and a SNAP-Ed Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Program covering the entire borough, BronxWorks is deeply committed to addressing the persistent health challenges in the Bronx. But the expectations of improving health and wellness do not stop with our clients and participants. As a major employer of the Bronx with over a thousand employees, many of whom are a significant part of the community, our commitment must of course extend to our staff and colleagues.

In previous issues of our newsletter, we shared deep dives into our Community Health Programs, SNAP Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Program, Farm Stands, and our Saturday Family Wellness Program. In this issue, we will share an update on new community health activities, as well as our internal employee wellness initiatives.

Community Health Activities

BronxWorks Staff working at the community health farm stand standing for a candid group picture
BronxWorks Community Health Program staff setting up the farm stand outside Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center.

BronxWorks Community Health Programs encompass a large set of activities that range from community organizing, operating two seasonal farm stands, at Padre Plaza Park in Mott Haven and at the Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center (CMCC) at 1130 Grand Concourse, providing a whole curriculum of nutrition education through our SNAP-Ed Program, cooking classes, Teen Battle Chef, food pantries, a commercial kitchen providing hundreds of meals made from scratch every day at dozens of BronxWorks programs and sites, and a dedicated Family Wellness Program on Saturdays, just to name a few. You can read more about this extensive programming in previous issues here.

With a workforce passionate about health and wellness, we are constantly searching for new activities to bring to our communities. We are excited for the official re-opening of the BronxWorks Community Pool at CMCC in the fall. The pool, which has undergone a complete renovation, will offer a suite of aquatics programming for all age groups, including swim lessons, mommy and me classes, water aerobics, and more. In addition to the pool re-opening, BronxWorks Community Health Programs are offering free yoga classes at CMCC on Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons starting in August.

BronxWorks staff taking group walks with community members.
(Left) Cross Bronx Preservation Program staff and participants take a group walk through Baychester. (Right) SNAP-Ed group walk with Morris Older Adult Center participants.

Through a mini-grant from Bronx Health REACH, a CDC-funded coalition to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities, the BronxWorks SNAP-Ed Program has started walking groups with participants and staff at different program sites. The grant provides technical assistance from Equity Design, a partner that provides program modeling for physical activities to help transform communities, to help the team design safe walking routes, understand and share metrics, and incorporate strategies and safety plans to ensure the well-being of all participants. Walks are adjusted depending on the age and physical abilities of participants, so they can be designed for any age group and ability level, including seniors and families with young children.

The first group walk took place this month setting out from the BronxWorks Morris Older Adult Center, visiting nearby farm stands and community resources, before looping back. The idea behind the group walks is a train-the-trainer type of activity, where participants can take the experience and organize group walks of their own.

In partnership with the Tremont Health Action Center, the Cross Bronx Preservation Community Services Program, part of the BronxWorks Workforce Development Department and based at Baychester and Murphy Houses NYCHA complexes, also started a walking group to visit nearby farm stands and community partners, espousing the often overlooked but amazing health benefits of simply walking.

BronxWorks Health Committee

The BronxWorks Health Committee is a group of staff members who volunteer and commit their time to support fellow colleagues in pursuing healthier habits by promoting health and wellness initiatives and sharing information and resources. The Chair of the Health Committee rotates every two years and is currently occupied by Andrew Lin, Development Manager. Members of the Health Committee come from throughout BronxWorks and include representation from Community Health Programs, SNAP-Ed Nutrition Education, Access to Benefits, Children & Youth, Adult Homeless Services, Family Shelters, Training Department, Human Resources, and more.

To build a culture of health and wellness throughout BronxWorks, the Health Committee implemented a number of initiatives. The first initiative is a monthly Health Committee Newsletter shared with all BronxWorks staff, covering a range of topics from exercise and nutrition resources to healthy shopping tips during the holidays, healthy recipes, mental health awareness, employee benefits, and more. With a focus on design and entertainment, the newsletters provide a brief and digestible editorial for staff to enjoy during the work week.

Flyer showing Bronxworks wellness on health committe including low vision awareness

The second initiative comes in the form of agency-wide health and wellness challenges for staff to engage with and compete against each other for prizes. This initiative kicked off in the Fall of 2022 with the first ever Health Committee Hydration Challenge, encouraging staff to cut back on sugary drinks and consume more water throughout the day. The Committee created rulebooks, a scoring rubric, and weekly logs for participants to record their hydration. During the 4-week challenge, the Health Committee organized weekly workshops to engage challenge participants with information and resources around hydration and the benefits of drinking water. For the Fall 2022 Hydration Challenge, 106 staff members registered.

BronxWorks health committee participants showing engagements in walking activities
Group Walk selfies from staff participants in the BronxWorks Health Committee Summer 2023 Walking Challenge.

Building on that experience in the Fall, the Health Committee organized a Summer 2023 Walking Challenge, called Bronx Walks. This challenge implemented a bonus scoring system that encouraged staff to once a day take group walks with their colleagues. During this challenge, 116 staff enrolled for the 4-week challenge, with over 60 participating week to week. Additionally, 58 staff engaged with weekly health workshops, and the bonus scoring encouraged 151 instances of BronxWorks staff taking time to walk with other staff members in a group.

The Health Committee continues to plan future challenges covering a range of topics, like eating healthy, mental health awareness, fitness and exercise, and more. The goal of the challenges is to create experience for our staff, encourage moderate behavior change, engage staff with resources and information, and to expand the reach of the Health Committee to be a staff-driven internal group to increase the well-being of our colleagues.

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