Governor Wolf, First Lady Highlight Power of Community Partnerships

Tom WolfPennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and First Lady Frances Wolf speak with Garry Gilliam Jr. founder and CEO of The Bridge. (Credit: Commonwealth Media Services)

HARRISBURG, PA — Governor Tom Wolf and First Lady Frances Wolf visited the new GIANT Bleacher Garden at the former Bishop McDevitt High School on Friday, which is now being transformed by Empower at The Bridge Foundation into a community resource with support from a $4 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant.

“When we work together, communities can be revitalized and success ensured,” said Gov. Wolf. “What these organizations are doing here in Harrisburg is a model to be replicated. My $4 million investment combined with immense private support is going to create jobs and economic opportunity while simultaneously addressing immediate and basic needs for residents of Harrisburg, it’s a culmination of my administration’s priorities addressed by one eco-village.”

In April, Governor Wolf awarded $4 million to Empower at the Bridge Foundation for renovations to the former Bishop McDevitt High School and creation of the JEDII Center. The center will fully revitalize the vacant location with a variety of commercial use areas, indoor and outdoor urban agriculture, sustainable housing, education centers, co-working spaces, and more. While improving local food security and creating affordable housing, the project will also create paying jobs and training and workforce opportunities. The project anticipates the creation of 225 jobs.

Over the course of his administration, Governor Wolf has invested nearly $60 million in 36 Dauphin County RACP projects.

The GIANT Bleacher Garden aims to repurpose the now unusable infrastructure to create a high-yielding foodscape. It’s projected to yield enough fresh, local produce to supply 120 families with 50 pounds of vegetables over the course of the growing season. The garden is a partnership between The GIANT Company, The Bridge Foundation, and Harrisburg City F.A.R.M.

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“Approximately 1.4 million people in Pennsylvania struggle with hunger, and greater disparities exists when we factor in race and geographic location,” said First Lady Wolf. “Projects like this challenge this unfortunate reality by investing in the health of people and the community around them. The GIANT Company and Empower at the Bridge understand that producing good food is essential and creating access to that food is critical.”

Urban agriculture, like the GIANT Bleacher Garden, plays a critical role in advancing food and nutritional security while also working to dismantle food apartheid in the commonwealth. For this reason, Governor Wolf created the Urban Agriculture Infrastructure Program in his Pennsylvania Farm Bill in 2019. The program, which is the first of its kind in the nation and the model for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Urban Agriculture and Innovation Program, has provided $1.5 million in state funding and generated $1.5 million in local investments for more than 100 projects across the commonwealth. The program supports the work of Pennsylvanians coming together to tackle both local and global challenges like climate change, food insecurity, and poor health associated with a lack of access to nutritious foods.

“At The GIANT Company, we know that we must work together to truly change the world. By joining forces, we can and will make a lasting difference in Harrisburg,” said Glennis Harris, senior vice president of customer experience, The GIANT Company. “We are proud to be a part of this transformative project with the GIANT Bleacher Garden, which will increase access to fresh, nutritious produce and connect families for a better future.”

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