Philly’s tipping point

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter at the 2015 GSK IMPACT Grant award ceremony || photo by Lauren Mandel

On March 19th ten players in Philadelphia’s urban farming community received a whopping $5 million grant award aimed at kickstarting healthy eating, exercise, and community building opportunities for local teens.  The IMPACT Grant, awarded by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and administered by The Philadelphia Foundation, provides local non-profits with financial resources to help disadvantaged youth live healthier lives and contribute to healthy communities.  The grant and GSK’s annual IMPACT Award targets communities surrounding GSK’s three US campuses, in Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Denver.

Top to bottom: Mayor Michael Nutter, Joie Kathos dancers, Philly public school student chef, Greener Partners || photos by Lauren Mandel

This year’s award winner, Get HYPE Philly, is a consortium of ten Philadelphia-based non-profits led by The Food Trust, a national leader in nutritious food access, founded in Philadelphia.  The partnership organizations project that their coordinated efforts will reach over 50,000 teens during the next three years through the following areas of focus:

“Eating healthy food is not a fad or a trend, it’s a lifestyle,” said Abdur Peay, a Thomas Mifflin School 7th grader, when speaking at the podium of the IMPACT Grant award ceremony.  “I’d like to bring HYPE to other cities and states, maybe go global.”  The youth’s words elicited cheering from the crowd of students, activists, executives, and media gathered at the Free Library of Philadelphia for the ceremony.  Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter followed Peay and fellow 7th grader Josiah Johnson with his own remarks, praising GSK’s investment in the health of young Philadelphians.  “Our administration has made this effort a priority in promoting healthy living,” said Nutter, before enthusiastically putting on a HYPE baseball cap.

Many of the Get HYPE Philly partnership organizations plan to expand their existing programming to target teens ages 12-18.  Liz Fitzgerald, culinary literacy specialist for the Free Library of Philadelphia, says the grant funding will enhance the library’s teen programming in the Culinary Literacy Center (which teaches literacy through cooking in the library’s new demonstration kitchen) and bring nutrition education to teens at library branches around the city.  Justin Trezza, executive director of Norris Square Neighborhood Project, is equally thrilled about the grant award and explains, “We’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time.”  Trezza’s organization serves mainly youth, 70% of which identify as Latino or biracial. “We don’t see gardening as purely producing food, but also as connecting people back to their cultures and heritage. With this [grant] we’re going to be hiring new staff, building a greenhouse, building a mobile farm stand to interact with out community members and offer them produce at a very, very affordable price.  We sell everything for a dollar.”

The $5 million IMPACT Grant award could be the tipping point in Philadelphia’s ongoing efforts to address food equity.  The award will be issued incrementally from 2015 through 2017, but Get HYPE Philly’s leaders plan to use the award as a springboard for future initiatives.  Yael Lehmann, executive director of The Food Trust, explained that, “We want to sustain this beyond the three-year period and that’s going to be an important part of our work that we’re going to start today, day one.”  Food access activists in Philadelphia and around the country will watch to see if this unique collaboration offers the muscle that’s needed to elicit lasting change and breed a new generation of leaders.

Seventh graders Abdur Peay and Josiah Johnson addressing the crowd || photo by Lauren Mandel

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