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Wednesday, April 13,2011

Twice-monthly 'eco-cafés' at OU push benefits of eating local

By Libby Cunningham
Natalie Woodroofe is a localvore. That means she tries to ensure that the foods she eats comes from Ohio, specifically within a 30-mile radius of Athens.

"You can eat locally within 30 miles of the city of Athens," she said. "That makes us the most local of localvore initiatives in the country."

Woodroofe shared the concept of the 30 Mile Meal along with other local food purveyors at Ohio University's second Eco Cafe last Wednesday.

Eco Cafes take place every other Wednesday in the Front Room at Baker University Center. Last week a panel of local foodies educated both students and locals on the benefits of close-to-home treats and eats.

"How much of the food that you ate today do you know is local?" Woodroofe asked, adding that OU students easily have the option to eat foods grown and produced in the area.

Though it may not be well known, many local markets, such as the Athens Farmers Market, accept both food stamp and WIC benefits.

Local foods do not always have to be purchased at a store though, and Ronda Clark from Community Food Initiatives (CFI) offered some tips on growing healthy foods at home.

"I really encourage people to plant a garden," she said. "Really, plant a garden. Get 10 tomato plants in."

CFI is a program that aims to aid people in food education, which includes establishing the difference between hunger and health, Clark said.

"We stress the fact that if we solve health we will solve hunger," she said. "If we solve hunger, we don't necessarily solve health."

To improve health, the organization educates even the youngest of school students on how to produce and prepare food. It even shows youth money-making opportunities, by informing them how to cultivate a garden and set up a stand to sell what they've grown.

Infiltrating school cafeterias educates children early on about which foods are healthy and worth eating.

"Our mission is to help people become self-sufficient in their food production," Clark said.

Local food can also help eliminate the middleman, said Leslie Schaller of ACEnet (the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks).

"How do we really shorten that supply chain from farm to fork?" she asked.

Right now there is a health epidemic running rampant in the forms of obesity and diabetes, she explained.

"Local food is one of the cure-alls, and we all need to get involved," she said.

If more people in Athens get involved, the localvore initiatives will become more successful.

"We can use our hands, our hearts, our minds to build really passionate, really flourishing local food centers," Schaller said.


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