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Planting ideas of healthy eating in Bergen Beach

Planting seeds!: Councilman Alan Maisel is funding a project to turn Department of Education-owned land on E. 71st Street into an educational garden for students to promote healthy eating habits.
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Talk about locally grown veggies!

The city is planting seeds to transform the Department of Education-owned empty land on Avenue N into a teaching garden that will promote the importance of healthy eating by allowing students to grow their own fresh tomatoes and corn. The E. 71st Street plot has filled with trash over the years, but the city recently fenced it off to keep it clean, and soon it will boast sweet vegetables to benefit everyone in the community, said the parent coordinator at PS 312.

“I live in the neighborhood, I think it’s absolutely wonderful, not only for the students, but people in the neighborho­od,” said Carol Pino, who is also a member of the Bergen Beach Civic Association. “A good way to promote good nutrition all around — not only promote the science part of it, but have the children learn how to prepare food and promote more healthy eating habits.”

The city plans to plow the land into various sections where groups of kids from nearby schools can grow their own food, and create an outdoor kitchen and orchard, according to Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Bergen Beach), who is funding the project.

Maisel committed $250,000 for the teaching garden last year, and is now upping that to $750,000. Borough President Adams is also throwing in $1 million, and there’s no better motivator than The Beep — who overcame diabetes through a healthy diet — to make an impression on young adults about making sure they eat enough greens, said Maisel.

“He’s a moral force in the whole idea of healthy eating,” said Maisel. “His own experience with diabetes, for him it’s a crusade to eat properly and to show the kids to eat to properly.”

And The Beep is hungry to help students form healthy relationships with their food through getting their hands dirty down on the farm, he said.

“I’m excited to dig into the full transformative potential that this learning garden could have in Bergen Beach and beyond,” Adams said. “Growing a meaningful relationship between students and the earth is central to my vision for harnessing the power of urban farming to create employment opportunities as well as healthier futures for our borough and the people who live in it.”

But fund-raising for the garden isn’t done. Maisel expects the completed project will cost about $4 million, and will have to be done in phases over time because there’s just so much to start growing, he said.

“There’s just a tremendous amount of material for the kids to do,” Maisel said. “We are trying to get more money from the mayor, and it’s going to be a long-range project, we’re not going to be able to complete it everything all at once.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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