Over the past 12 years, Tony Hillery and his team at Harlem Grown have transformed a vacant lot filled with junk on West 134th Street in Manhattan into a garden oasis. It is part of a network of urban farms that feed the surrounding community.
“Now, collectively over our 14 sites, we grow just shy of 6,000 pounds of organic produce. We have free farmers markets every Wednesday and Saturday, but it’s complete with nutrition education, cooking demonstrations, and recipe writing,” Hillery said.
Hillery started the nonprofit to support the children attending P.S. 175, which is located across the street. Hillery remembers being troubled by the myriad of issues that children face in low-income communities, areas often described as food deserts — where access to affordable, healthy food is limited — or food swamps — where fast or junk food options far outnumber healthy alternatives.
“They’re not an accident. We know that,” Hillery said. “We have zoning for everything in this city, and you’re telling me we can’t zone unhealthy, fatty, salty, sugary foods. So, the will is just not there, and then it’s [also about] affordability.”
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