Stonyfield Organic, a Londonderry, N.H.-based organic yogurt maker, announced plans to build on its StonyFields program. Launched in 2018, the nationwide initiative aims to help keep families free from harmful pesticides in parks and playing fields across the country.

To further the impact of its program, Stonyfield Organic announced a goal to help convert some of the the United States’ most famous parks — Central Park and Prospect Park in New York and Grant Park in Chicago — to be organically maintained by 2025 through several donations. By the end of April, Grant Park will be the first of the parks to begin the organic transition as part of the #PlayFree initiative.

Stonyfield Organic said it discovered that while most American parents (69%) are looking to lessen their children’s exposure to pesticides in food, nearly the same number (67%) do not consider exposure at sports fields, playgrounds and parks to be of concern. Stonyfield Organic said it is eager to bring attention to this issue, seeing how more than 26 million kids play sports on the 670,000 fields across the country. And 65% of the fields are sprayed with harmful pesticides such as glyphosate, 2,4-D and Dicamba, a source of concern for chemical exposure (which can lead to Parkinson's disease, endocrine disruption, thyroid disease and more).

Stonyfield Organic said it has converted more than 35 parks since the program’s inception and contributed over $2 million dollars to the initiative. The company teams up with communities nationwide to assist with their transitions to organic grounds management and bringing organic model fields to millions of people.

Stonyfield Organic said it is in the process of working with a coalition of organizations to push New York City legislation to pass the bill titled “Intro 1524,” which will prohibit city agencies from applying toxic pesticides to any property owned or leased by the city. This bill has the majority support of New York City Council members but has not been passed. After moving through the hearing process with unanimous support, the legislation is awaiting a vote of the full council.

From there, Stonyfield Organic’s donation will help the coalition, which includes groups such as Grassroots Environmental, Beyond Pesticides, Osborne Organics, The Black Institute and Parks for Kids NYC, to work with the city to provide training and begin organic maintenance. Also, in Chicago, the company said it is in the process of working with parks and recreation authorities at Grant Park and Sherman Park, as the parks will officially begin converting to organic grounds by the end of April.

Additional parks across the country will be converted this year as well, including Jordan Park in Allentown, Pa., Reservoir Park in Harrisburg, Pa.; and fields in Matthews, N.C.; to name a few. Each of this year’s selected communities will receive a monetary donation to use toward the purchase of organic inputs and/or landscaping equipment needed for organic grounds management, Stonyfield Organic said. The communities will also receive in-kind technical support and guidance underwritten by Stonyfield Organic from the yogurt maker’s expert collaborators, including Beyond Pesticides, Non-Toxic Neighborhoods, Osborne Organics and Midwest Grows Green.

Stonyfield Organic said it hopes its #PlayFree program will empower everyone to make changes locally and at home to protect the health of children, pets and the environment as well. That’s why the company launched an online pesticide portal where people may tag a park in their community to have it reviewed by the StonyField taskforce. If chosen, Stonyfield will provide local park officials in that community with the proper tools to test for harmful pesticides and offer resources for them to transition.