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ARTICLE UnitedHealthcare, Knox Parks Partner to Expand Community Gardening in Downtown Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (May 19, 2011) – UnitedHealthcare and Knox Parks are working together to expand the Battles Street Community Garden, enabling nearly 40 families in Hartford's Clay Arsenal neighborhood to grow healthy, fresh produce for their dinner tables.


More than 70 UnitedHealthcare employees today are cleaning, weeding and preparing the land to allow for eight new garden plots. The volunteers are also helping build a covered patio where gardeners can gather and seek a break from the sun. The garden's previous lean-to was destroyed last year when a tree branch fell on it.


The project is a public-private partnership in response to Mayor Pedro E. Segarra's "Celebrating Our Parks" campaign, an initiative to beautify, protect and sustain Hartford's historic park system so that families can enjoy them for years to come.


"I commend Knox Parks and UnitedHealthcare for stepping forward and partnering to expand the Battles Street Garden," Segarra said. "This project illustrates that when members of the community work together, we can make great strides in sustaining our gardens and parks, which have been neglected for far too long. This team spirit also helps advance our 'One City, One Plan' for conservation and development, a long-term vision and strategy for the future of Hartford."


For nearly 20 years, local residents have been growing a wide variety of vegetables and flowers at the Battles Street Community Garden including tomatoes, lettuce and cabbage as well as culturally popular choices such as kale and callaloo, which are often used in Hispanic and West Indian cuisines. The Battles Street Garden provides an abundance of fresh, affordable and healthy ingredients for families in this urban setting while encouraging self-reliance and building community.


"Community gardening is a great, local example of how people can live healthier lives while beautifying our neighborhoods," Mike Matteo, CEO, UnitedHealthcare National Accounts. "These garden plots provide a dependable, healthy produce source to families living in the inner city who may not have access to nutritious and affordable food. Our employees are grateful to support a project that is improving our communities and making a positive difference in people's lives."


UnitedHealthcare is providing financial and volunteer support to help Knox Parks meet the dramatic increase in demand for gardening space in Hartford. Citywide, the need for community garden space has increased by 30 percent, according to Knox Parks. This follows a growing national trend of using community gardens as an affordable and accessible solution for fresh vegetables and fruit in inner cities. In addition to expanding the Battles Street Garden by eight garden plots, UnitedHealthcare will support in repairing and extending fencing and irrigation, adding downspouts and rain barrels to the greenhouse for rainwater harvesting, and helping to maintain the garden.


"We were so appreciative when UnitedHealthcare approached us with this idea to expand our community garden," said Ron Pitz, executive director, Knox Parks. "Their investment is impacting families directly and is ensuring more Hartford residents are able to enjoy fresh, healthy produce while ensuring self reliance. The Knox Parks community gardening program is one of the oldest in the nation, growing from one garden in 1972 located in Keney Park to a total of 14 gardens serving 260 families throughout Hartford today."


UnitedHealthcare has 4,000 employees in Connecticut, including 2,100 in downtown Hartford, and provides health benefits to more than 607,000 residents across the state through employer-sponsored, individual, Medicare and Medicaid programs.


About Knox Parks
Knox Parks uses horticulture as a catalyst, working in partnership with residents, businesses and government to build a strong, greener and more beautiful community. Since its founding, Knox has been a key partner in improving the City of Hartford and is a nationally recognized leader in the field of community greening. Principal services include neighborhood beautification and reforestation, park improvement efforts, development of greenways, the oversight and maintenance of both community gardens and public green spaces and the successful administration of an AmeriCorps youth development and green jobs training program.


About UnitedHealthcare
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 650,000 physicians and care professionals and 5,000 hospitals nationwide. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 37 million people and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.