If you want to eat, drink and be healthy, head to 's Fifth Annual Healthy Living Festival from noon to 4 p.m. today in downtown Manhattan Beach's Metlox Plaza.
Indeed, Metlox Plaza will transform into the place to learn about health while sampling good eats, participating in free fitness classes and holistic therapies, and visiting more than 100 exhibitors, including local restaurants, grocery stores, businesses and health venues.
"It is a blessing and gift to share the knowledge and assist people towards healthy living," said Peggy Curry, founder and president of GrowingGreat, based in Manhattan Beach. "We know that diet, attitude, education and a little inspiration, a little 'taste,' really can make a huge impact getting people started towards a healthier lifestyle and to feeling great. Attitude, diet and environment make up a huge part of our overall well being."
This year's attendees will enjoy food samples from local favorites including , , and Elemental Superfood, as well as regional and national leaders in the health movement such as Applegate Organic & Natural Meats, Earthbound Farm Organic, The Veggie Grill, Whole Foods and Sunkist.
The Healthy Living Festival has grown from 500 attendees its first year to about 5,000 last year, a growth GrowingGreat founder Marika Bergsund could only have dreamt about when she started her nutrition program in one garden for one group of elementary school students in 1999. Indeed, the nutrition education program has grown quickly, going community-wide and beyond. It is offered in the Manhattan Beach Unified School District's schools and its homegrown efforts are well known throughout the city.
GrowingGreat's goal is to help children and adults adopt healthy eating and lifestyle habits, embracing a philosophy to eat “whole, close to the source foods,” said Curry.
To that end, in addition to working with local government, civic groups, businesses, community gardens, environmental groups and farmers markets, the nonprofit organization has partnered with environmental activist Kelly Meyer to help launch the sustainable Teaching Garden at Kelso Elementary School in Inglewood and with CarlosSantana’s Milagro Foundation, ONEXONE, the W.K.Kellogg Foundation and the Sausalito Marin City School District to create GrowingGreat Marin City.
As a registered 501(c)3 company, GrowingGreat has received federal grants to aid tis efforts. Plans call for Meyer and the group to bring the Teaching Garden to 1,000 schools across the country in the next year. Will Rogers Elementary School in Santa Monica and Nevin Elementary in Los Angeles now have Teaching Garden programs.
And indeed, once a year, GrowingGreat puts down temporary roots at the Healthy Living Festival. "It's a wonderful way to offer something free, educate and inspire all those who attend from all our communities," said Curry. "Last year, so many people came up to us sharing what a wonderful gift we are doing for the people in our community. To me that said so much."
This year's festival will include Energy Muse, a jewelry company based in Torrance, that has teamed up with Los Angeles chef Ludo Lefebvre of Top Chef fame to design the "Connect" collection and will launch the line at the festival by donating all proceeds from sales at the event to GrowingGreat.
Each of Energy Muse's Connect designs uses specific materials to bring benefits to the body--the company has jewelry for abundance, health, motherhood and more. The Connect collection is designed to promote healthy eating.
"Just getting out in the community, being outside and being active is the most important part," said parent Carol Bezek whose children attend Pennekamp Elementary in Manhattan Beach. "The education is great, but just being active together is the biggest piece of the puzzle. I think I do well health-wise, but I know we can learn from GrowingGreat's ideas to eat more local produce."
Other aspects of the festival include providing suggestions on how to prioritize physical exercise and use diet as a preventative health measure.
Said Curry, "The Healthy Living Festival provides the arena to inspire those in our community who would not otherwise learn from our school programs. The beauty is that today we get to reach people of all ages in our community--elders/seniors, young adults, families with young children not in school yet and adults without children.
"The festival is completely interactive. We ask and encourage everyone to be ready to engage the community with some sort of activity that attendees will have the opportunity to actually experience, what will light a person's fire to begin even thinking, 'Hey I can do this,' or 'Wow, I haven't thought of this,' or 'Maybe this will help me,' when nothing else has... even try a new exercise, like Kanga jumping."