New Program Aims To Teach Healthy Eating

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The grassroots organization aimed at providing access to locally grown nutritious food will be ramping up a new cooking and nutrition program for people receiving food assistance.

Community Food Initiatives (CFI) “Discovery Kitchen” program will teach people how to prepare healthy meals that meet federally recommended nutrition standards.

CFI Executive Director Mary Nally said the new program was inspired by an earlier collaborative program called “Farm to Table” that featured longer more intensive cooking classes.

“The feedback we got from the food pantry patrons and the food bank coordinators was overwhelmingly positive,” she said.

 The need for food assistance is a chronic problem in southeastern Ohio.  According to CFI, 30% of the population in Athens County is at or below the poverty line.  CFI serves more than 30 food pantries and social service agencies around the region.

In spite of the ever present need donations Nally said recently food banks are seeing a decline in corporate donations which often are the main providers of food.   Several years ago, CFI started the program “Donation Station.”

“We collect fresh local food at our Athens Farmers’ Market,” Nally said.  “Both from the vendors, customers, and local community gardeners and we distribute that to area food pantries.”

 In 2011 CFI distributed more than 34,000 pounds of food.  This year they are hoping to collect and distribute at least 45,000 pounds of food by January 1.