Grantee Spotlight | Allies On The Ground | Manchester Growing Together Farm

Aug 2, 2017

A grant from Neighborhood Allies positioned a PSSA to take an innovative approach to addressing food insecurity by using the Manchester Growing Together Farm as a hands-on educational classroom to teach and reinforce healthy eating and living practices to local at-risk families and residents.

Pittsburgh Struggling Student Association (PSSA), is an organization of Manchester positioned to mobilize the community to play a critical role in the work of piloting an effective “community school”. They exist to support students and families who are at-risk of school failure in their neighborhood. Acknowledging that many of the families they serve also experience food insecurity and often do not have access to fresh and healthy food, they took the classroom outdoors to the Manchester Growing Together Farm to begin to address these inter-related struggles from the roots.

“While working closely with the students, faculty and staff of the Pittsburgh Manchester Elementary School, we continually heard the struggles of young urban families. Many faced varying levels of food insecurity and the absence of affordable and healthy food was symptomatic of much larger problems. We recalibrated and expanded our focus to serve as a conduit for community health education and transformation, using the garden/farm as a hands-on educational classroom teaching and reinforcing healthy eating/living and economic empowerment. ”

-Lisa Freeman

With support from Neighborhood Allies, the Manchester Growing Together Farm is now a hands-on educational classroom, teaching and reinforcing healthy eating and living, and economic empowerment practices to at-risk families and local residents in the Northside.  Utilizing the farm, PSSA has hosted numerous communal dinners and family events for neighbors, are teaching weekly environmental, math and reading classes for youth and their families, purchased a mobile food vending trailer and leveraged nearly $38,000 in additional funding, in-kind support and volunteers:

  • Purchased a mobile food vending trailer that offers a sheltered farmer’s market retail space as well as a classroom space for children’s programming, communal dinners, cooking demonstrations and meeting space:
    • Partnering with the nationally recognized program “Cooking Matters” and 412 Food Rescue to provide “Cooking Matters” Free Cooking Classes (keep reading for more information on these free cooking classes!)
  • Hosted summer communal dinners:
    • 100 neighbors came together for a community event with two live bands, food from the garden, guests sharing their food and inviting their neighbors.
    • The Manchester Growing Garden was included in the Manchester House Tour as a stop for its originality and the place it holds within the community. Nearly 500 people ventured in for refreshments, garden giveaways and taste testing made with different herbs and edible flowers.
    • Manchester Documentary was filmed – documentary screening, focused on the development of the Manchester Growing Together Garden held at the City of Asylum. Sixty-five people from across the city joined the residents of Manchester to view this candid compilation of the garden, urban blight and the challenges of overcoming the sense of “entitlement” in urban food deserts.
    • Manchester Growing Together Garden/Farm hosted a ceremony for the youth who participated in “Who Ate your Math Homework”? A curious and successful math learning program that incorporates healthy eating in teaching and enforcing math skills. 270 students and 28 teachers and staff were in attendance.
  • Taught weekly environmentally based classes for youth: 
    • Bee hives, farm animals, water conservations, recycling,
    • Lead in the soil
    • Environmental hazards
    • Soil Testing and actually took samples and sent them for evaluation
    • Organic Fertilizers, minerals and manure
    • Companion planting,
    • Collecting water,
    • Creating a rain barrel (started making our own, almost completed)
    • Power tools, safety procedures (started making our own compost bins, almost completed)
  • Another environmental group developed into a working relationship with adult men on the Autism Spectrum: They drew to the garden naturally and loved being outdoors in a quiet space free of judgement. They tended to their “own” raised bed and grew basil, tomatoes, lettuce. As the weekly meetings advanced they developed a strong kinship with the outdoors, the plants they nurtured and a space to “goof” off. So much so that they began to write about their experiences at the garden. The stories were published in “The Pittsverse” a quarterly magazine written exclusively by Adults on the Autism Spectrum. Pittsverse is a program of YAP Adult Services. They also harvested the basil and produced their own Pesto that they cooked and served last year at one of the events. Three men participated weekly with an occasional visitor that might join them. It still meets weekly.
  • Offered weekly Therapeutic Garden sessions:
    •Tadisco (methadone treatment) clients
    •Autism spectrum clients
    •Riverside Community Connections – for offenders in re-entry services
    •Community Intensive Supervised Program – juvenile offenders

Manchester Growing Together Farm/412 Food Rescue Cooking Matters Classes!

Learn to cook healthy meals for your family!

  • Cook nutritious and delicious food on a budget
  • Get a free bag of groceries each week AND farm fresh produce!
  • Discuss nutrition concepts and work with a chef to prepare healthy meals
  • Take a trip to the grocery store to learn to shop for healthy and affordable food
  • Meet your neighbors in class and share ideas for making small changes toward a healthier life
  • Attend at least 4 out of 6 classes to graduate and receive a cookbook, apron, and more!


DATE: July 22 – August 26, 2017 (classes run every week for 6 weeks)

TIME: 5:00 – 7:00pm

LOCATION: Manchester Growing Together Farm

1436 Columbus Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

About PSSA: Pittsburgh Struggling Student Association (PSSA) supports students and families who are at-risk of school failure. Pittsburgh Struggling Student Association’s goal is promoted through advocacy and educational programs directed toward parents, teachers and the general public; developed through conferences, committees, projects, and programs. The association works with the schools and community to provide quality education for all children and youth, and seeks to participate in the decision-making process establishing school policies PSSA is a noncommercial, nonsectarian, nonpartisan nonprofit for the charitable and educational purposes within the IRS 501©(3) nonprofit code.

About Manchester Growing Together Farm: Manchester Growing Together Farm is recognized as a model throughout the City of Pittsburgh. The garden/farm is highly acclaimed and has been showcased through several venues for its best practices for environmental stewardness; educational pioneering; juvenile justice remediation; community service involvement and The Buhl Foundation’s One Northside showcase of “quality of space.”

Top Header Image Photo Credit: Prototyping Larimer Stories by artist John Peña, photo by OPA