By Grace Jin – 12th Grade, North Allegheny Senior High School
On a sunny summer day at Anderson playground in Schenley Park, you might see kids swinging high up in the sky, sliding through colorful tubes, or spinning the merry-go-around as their parents prepare for a picnic on the lawn. This summer, however, there was a new sight: a long table laid out with boxes of food, with a banner labeled “GrubUp.” As I approached the friendly lady in charge of the stand, she informed me that Anderson playground is one of over 70 locations in Pittsburgh that offers free and healthy breakfasts, lunches, and snacks during the summer to children up to 18 years old, as well as mentally disabled individuals up to 21 years old.
GrubUp, a summer food service initiative, aims to address the hunger crisis that many children face. During the school year, thousands of students receive free lunches through the Pittsburgh Public Schools District; for financially disadvantaged kids, lunch may be their only meal of the day. During the summer, however, school lunch is no longer provided. This is where Citiparks steps in. Through funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the City of Pittsburgh has offered Summer Food Service for several years.
This year, after thorough marketing research and community assessment, a new campaign – GrubUp – was launched in order to increase utilization of summer food programs. To increase fresh food access, GrubUp chose popular locations such as community centers, libraries, churches, parks, and food trucks. While GrubUp is a summer initiative, it will begin to offer after-school meal programs at numerous recreation centers during the school year.
I am someone who always appreciates free food. I almost drooled while looking through the day’s menu: a whole-grain turkey sandwich, chocolate milk, apple juice, and a peach cup. While I enjoyed my daily serving of fresh fruit, I learned that approximately 30 -170 kids are served every day at the Anderson playground! After visiting my first GrubUp site, I contacted several organizations including Community Kitchen Pgh, the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, Just Harvest, Let’s Move Pittsburgh, and Citiparks in order to gain a comprehensive perspective on the origin and mission of GrubUp.
A common theme that I noticed while working for Pittsburgh Youth Media is the collaboration of nonprofit efforts to lead children to a healthier future. For example, Community Kitchen Pittsburgh sponsors Project Lunch Tray, a fun competition for students to cook from-scratch foods compliant with USDA nutrition guidelines. Urban agriculture programs have also grown popular at many schools in the city. Hopefully, the exciting successes of GrubUp will continue for many years to come. After all, who doesn’t love free food?
Grace Jin is a senior at North Allegheny Senior High School. She has edited for VARIATIONS magazine, won Scholastics awards, and published multiple art and writing pieces onTeen Ink print magazine. Grace lives in McCandless and loves to play piano, paint, and eat ice-cream.