Fifty three fried chicken restaurants in a three block radius. Fifty three in three blocks. That's a lot of fried chicken.
This is a telling description of our neighborhood in Harlem, a classic example of the "low income, low access" community. Harlem has high unemployment and high crime. Health issues like obesity and asthma surge above national averages. Children here are growing up in a community with a lack of access to the resources they need to succeed.
Harlem Grown is working to change that pattern. We believe that children are changemakers and that all children should be given equal opportunity to succeed in life. To build a healthy community, you start from the smallest building blocks: children inspire their brothers, sisters and parents; families inspire their neighbors; and soon you have true community engagement. Our mission is simple: to inspire youth to live healthy and ambitious lives - no matter what zip code they come from. We do this through mentorship and hands-on education focused on urban farming, sustainability and nutrition. By engaging youth in activities like gardening, cooking and composting, the children are actively learning (and loving) to live a healthy lifestyle; but they also learn a lot more. Our programs are uniquely designed to help children succeed in life - providing mentorship and teaching skills like teamwork, conflict resolution, patience and responsibility, all through the lens of gardening. It's amazing the variety of lessons that can be learned, even when collecting banana peels for compost.
We are excited to announce that 2015 is our fifth year and we've had some huge accomplishments so far. Since 2011, Harlem Grown has developed two urban farms, several school gardens, and a hydroponic greenhouse. We've expanded our programs, now reaching over 1,200 children each year and engaging well over 1,000 adults be it parents, volunteers or community members. We grow thousands of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables and compost tons of food scraps. Almost all of our produce is sent directly into the hands of those who grew it: children in Harlem. Our youth are eating healthier, gaining access to fresh foods, and learning life skills. Our partner schools have seen dramatic changes in their school environment after partnering with Harlem Grown with school fights decreasing by 80% and salad bars emptying out. But the children themselves tell some of the more unique stories about what they've learned. One of our students proudly reported to us: "We learned about teamwork shoveling chicken poop!"
While we've had great success, we know there is more work to be done. Harlem Grown is still growing, and just like the children we work with, we learn a lot as we go. Our goals for the next few years are big, because we know the need is even bigger. We plan to expand our programs to reach as many students as we can, projecting a reach of over 10,000 by 2020. We also are continuing to "green" Harlem, creating urban farms to increase the access to fresh, healthy food for our community. As we said above, these are big plans. We can't do it alone. We need your support to transform lives as we teach our children to dream big, to achieve. Please help us in this mission by making a donation, volunteering, spreading the word, and advocating for accessible, healthy communities for all.