A group of community organizations has banded together to host a free weekly meal at the Nelsonville Public Library over the next four months, with the goal of feeding hungry people and teaching them how to cook healthy food.
The project, called FEAST – or Families Eating Affordably and Sustainably Together – is meant to get at the heart of problems involving food insecurity in Athens County. Food security is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as enough “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life,” and Athens County has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in Ohio (about 19.9 percent of its total population in 2016, or 12,970 people).
The FEAST project comes from a consortium of local organizations called the Hunger Prevention Coalition; is organized by Live Healthy Appalachia, the Ohio State University Extension’s SNAP-Ed program and Community Food Initiatives (CFI); and is supported by Athens County Public Libraries, Integrated Services, OSU Athens County Alumni Association, Saving Hardware and other organizations.
Susie Huser, project coordinator and CFI’s Donation Station program manager, said Friday that the weekly meal-workshops (the next one is 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4) provide an opportunity for people to come together and make a meal together.
“So, people are getting fed, for one thing, but they’re also learning about how to prepare a meal,” she said.
Huser said it’s especially important to have these meal-workshops in Athens County because it has one of the highest percentages of residents living below the ALICE threshold (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) of all 88 counties in Ohio. Roughly 70 percent of all residents in the “west/northwest” townships in Athens County in particular live below that threshold, Huser said.
Additionally, event attendees go home with a free “door prize,” she said, typically food or a utensil used in the kitchen.
So far, event attendees have made items such as potato soup, a massaged kale salad, sweet potato apple hash and quinoa.
Cheryl Skelley, a local photographer, recently attended one of the FEAST events with her 3-year-old son; she said they’re “still talking” about the pumpkin dip recipe showcased at that event.
“I learned a new pomegranate aril removal trick, (and) I’m equally proud and impressed that my son can identify dinosaur tongue kale,” Skelley said over the weekend.
Megan Norris, director of children’s programs at Live Healthy Appalachia, said that all are welcome to weekly meal-workshops. She said it’s especially heartening to see families take home new skills so they can continue to make healthy food outside of the FEAST events.
Sierra Faris, Donation Station and Discovery Kitchen coordinator with CFI, noted that each of the FEAST lead organizations has taken on leading the workshops, so each of those meal-workshops will have a different focus.
“CFI’s FEAST workshops will focus on one-pot meals that can be made in a crock pot; especially because at each workshop, one lucky participant will have the opportunity to win a crock pot,” Faris said.
Live Healthy’s focus for its meal-workshops, meanwhile, has been on “engaging kids in healthy eating and being a part of the cooking process… with their parents and guardians,” Norris said.
For more information on the FEAST workshops, including a schedule and details on how to sign up to attend, go to https://www.myacpl.org/feast/. Anybody interested in donating to the FEAST program or in contributing door prizes for the events should contact Community Food Initiatives at 740-593-5971.
The original article in the Athens News can be found here: https://www.athensnews.com/news/local/community-groups-host-weekly-meal-workshop-in-nelsonville/article_700c7ecc-f66b-11e8-a4df-57a25d7e2d7b.html