Siani: Right now, I’m picking sage. My grandmother interested me in gardening since I was a kid. She was like, ‘Oh, Siani, when you going to help me plant my flower garden?’ And I was like, ‘Sure, grandma.’ But did I ever help her?
Jessica: Then something changed last summer. Siani learned of a program called the Agaston Urban Nutrition Initiative, run by the University of Pennsylvania. She signed up and soon began volunteering at the community garden and was selling the crops at the farmer’s market.
Selling produce at a farmer’s market might not seem like a big deal, but it is in west Philadelphia where most stores don’t carry fresh fruits and vegetables.
Siani: Instead of going to McDonalds and Burger King and get a whole lot of fast food, you can come here and get some fresh produce. And now you have something healthy to eat tonight.
Jessica: West Philadelphia is a low-income neighborhood in Philadelphia which is the poorest of the ten largest cities in the U.S. And, there are less grocery stores per person in Philly than almost any other city in the country.
Quasheem: You hear about people dying on the news from gun shots or getting stabbed or robbed, but one of the main problems in our community is obesity. And that kills a lot of people.
Jessica: Quasheem is right. Philadelphia is one of the most overweight cities in the country. And the United States is the most obese country in the world. Forty-seven percent of teens in Philadelphia are obese, which is much higher than the national average.
Having a poor diet leads to weight gain, and being overweight increases a person’s chances of getting diabetes. And diabetes causes more deaths than breast cancer and AIDS combined.
Siani’s father has diabetes and she encouraged her father to eat healthy. He now owns one of the only fresh produce stores in west Philadelphia.
“She’s one of the prime reasons I thought of doing the vegetable thing. Because when I first started to teach her how to cook at home when she was, like, seven years old, she didn’t want to touch the chicken and she didn’t want to touch the beef because it was so slimy. And she said she wanted to become a vegetarian. So that’s what prompted me to build a vegetable produce market in the first place, because that’s what she was interested in.”
Jessica: Thanks to the community garden, Siani has been successful in getting people in her commnuity to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. However, her father, who also wants people to eat better, hasn’t had the same luck.
“We been open for two years and some of the neighbors around here have never been here.”
Jessica: What are siani and her friends doing that her dad isn’t? They are cooking their greens at the farmer’s market and then giving out free samples.
Siani: Today, we were giving out collard greens and also mustard greens with onions and garlic on them just for free, just to show what people can do with fresh produce.
Jessica: Siani and her friends feel that the free samples make fresh vegetables seem more appealing.
“We can turn vegetables that may not taste too good into something that tastes good. It just depends on the seasoning.”
Jessica: And by the fact that they sell out of their produce each week, they just might be right.
Jessica Kumari, Channel One News.