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Green Up to Grow Up Encourages Healthy Eating for Youth

One in 3 American children is overweight or obese. That’s according to the Children’s Defense Fund, which also says 45 percent of those kids come from low-income families.

Pittsburgh is launching a new program called “Green Up to Grow Up” to try to reduce that figure.

The program is an expansion of GreenUp and Edible Gardens, which turns vacant lots into areas where produce is grown for low-income neighborhoods.

The program’s goal is to promote the importance of a healthy, balanced diet and physical activity through eating demonstrations and having them help maintain the Edible Gardens.

The Pennsylvania Beverage Association awarded Mayor Luke Ravenstahl a $5,000 grant at the Manchester Community Garden, one of the Edible Gardens.

Tony Crisci, Pennsylvania Beverage Association Executive Director, said the company has been looking for ways to create healthier options for children and give back to Pennsylvania.

Lisa Freeman, the force behind the garden in Manchester, said the garden is a community-wide effort.

“That has produced healthy vegetables, healthy relationships, better understanding and appreciation of our neighbors, better relationships between public schools and charter schools, a place of pride and beauty that makes us all feel glad, and a place of peace where life lessons can be taught and learned,” Freeman said.

Cooking students from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh taught the children in Manchester how to make healthy foods like salsa.

The children also helped make smoothies by attaching a blender to the back of a bike and mixing it by pedaling.

State Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) said the Green Up to Grow Up program will benefit children and communities in many ways.

“Being able to provide the opportunity for our young people to get affordable, healthy food will help them in school, will help them socially and certainly help them physically,” Fontana said.

Freeman thanked Ravenstahl for starting the Edible Garden and Green Up to Grow Up programs, which she said have bonded the community.

“For assisting and bringing a divided community to an area of commonality, bridging the racial and economic divide and establishing a learning environment that children can play a role in community evolvement and understand the meaning of civic responsibility,” Freeman said.