Quvenzhane Wallis for Teaching Gardens: Variety Power of Youth Honoree

'Beasts of the Southern Wild' thesp supports American Heart Assn. org that focuses on kids

Quvenzhane Wallis made history with her portrayal of 6-year-old Hushpuppy in “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” becoming the youngest performer ever nominated for an Oscar. Now 9 and entering fourth grade at home in Louisiana, she next stars in Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” and voiced the role of Almitra in the upcoming toon “The Prophet.” She’s also preparing for the lead role in a fresh adaptation of Broadway tuner “Annie.” (Will Smith’s shingle, Overbrook, is producing along with Jay Z).

In addition to her concerns over the environmental themes of “Beasts,” Wallis says she chose to become involved with the American Heart Assn.’s Teaching Gardens project a few months ago “because it really appealed to me and it’s for kids.”

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Targeting elementary school kids nationwide, the how-to program was designed to combat obesity and encourage kids to include more fresh fruit and vegetables in their diets. “It teaches them how to grow gardens, and it also teaches them how to eat healthy so they can live a long life,” Wallis says. “If kids don’t eat the right things, they’ll live a short life. So what I say is, ‘Go green and live longer.’”

SEE MORE: Hollywood Kids: How Do Young Actors Deal With Sexy, Violent Roles?

Wallis is also one who practices what she preaches: “I like gardening, and I’m putting one in the back yard of my house,” she says. “I’m planting lettuce, carrots and all kinds of vegetables from seed packets. Since my mom likes to cook lots of fresh vegetables, it just makes sense. I’ll be helping other kids plant their own gardens after school, so it’s very exciting.”

SEE MORE: Variety’s Power of Youth Honorees:

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