How do we help people not only grow healthy food but have the foundation for moving away from the trap of processed, additive laden products in completing their meals?

This is a question that the Big Ugly Creek Grow Appalachia project has been asking this past year, particularly through our healthy cooking and food preservation workshops.  And it’s become increasingly important as our conversations grew to include the many health problems aggravated by processed foods:  dyes that have an impact on ADHD, additives that contribute to WV having one of the highest obesity- related disease rates in the country, and others that contribute to inflammation and joint pain.

To help people get off the gluten, msg, high corn fructrose train, we will launch the Big Ugly Food Coop that will distribute healthy staples (options of gluten free or whole wheat noodles, dry beans and grains), ingredients for meals for healthy family meals, and of course, plants from our greenhouse for both Grow App families, low income, elderly, and residents with disabilities that are part of our Garden Buddies initiative.

Each month we will time a Grow Appalachia workshop with a distribution of healthy foods and/or plants that are timely to the season:

  • At Thanksgiving we used only organic potatoes with our fifteenth annual community dinner. We gave bags of potatoes out with information on the safety of keeping the skins on with organics, and also gave out the fixings with eight turkey carcasses to make turkey soup.
  • At our Christmas celebration with after- school we gave out fixings to families for a hearty bean soup
  • In January we will emphasize sweet potatoes and winter squash to demonstrate that if people plant those next spring they will keep well into the winter
  • And so on with a mixture of greenhouse plants or healthy fixings for side dishes as the fresh vegetables come in spring through summer

We may expand to include a healthy foods only Food Bank. I remember when I first got involved with food banks in West Virginia 35 years ago and the options included boxes of the chocolate wafers for ice cream sandwiches (“They’re great with peanut butter.”)  In this day and age we are optimistic that as we work with families toward Food Security, that that can be synonymous with healthy foods.