Officials plan to reach 100,000 people across the region over the next six months.By Kristine Sorensen

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — So many people are struggling to pay the bills, and that can mean nutritious food is not in the budget.

That’s why the American Heart Association is giving away fresh produce for the next six months all across our region. It’s a rainbow of health – fresh apples, carrots, bananas, peppers and more – all free to those driving up to St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church in East Liberty.

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The Reverend James Harris from the church says, “We believe people ought to eat healthy. When you have a healthy diet, you have a healthy body, and a healthy body can fight off viruses and other things that come into our lives”

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Reverend Harris says many people in the East End need help, and this is one way they can make a difference in people’s lives. Leroy Mobley is picking up bags of produce for several people.

“Some people, even people with jobs, can live payday to payday and in need,” Mobley says. “It’s really important because some people are really desperate.”

A review of 95 studies in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2017 found that five servings a day of fruits and vegetables, or about 2.5 cups, appears to slightly lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.

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And 10 servings a day, or 5 cups, may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease by 28 percent and premature death by 31 percent.

Lauren Rauscher, who’s the community impact director with the American Heart Association, says, “Healthy food is the basis of cardiovascular health, and 80 percent of cardiovascular health is impacted by social determinants of health, such as access to food. So 20 percent is more genetic, and 80 percent are things that we can do something about.”

The American Heart Association is hosting these markets in primarily low-income neighborhoods for easier access. They’re also delivering the bags to seniors and hosting markets in senior centers.

They plan to reach 100,000 people across the region over the next six months. Jasmine Taylor drove to East Liberty from Aliquippa to pick up produce with her children.

“This is awesome,” Taylor said. “I’m always looking to support something about being healthier and living healthier lives.”

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There’s a schedule of the pop-up produce markets on the American Heart Association website here.

Kristine Sorensen