Group and agency join in effort to promote local, healthy foods


The Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative (ASFC) is partnering with the Athens City-County Health Department for its annual gathering this Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Eclipse Company Store in The Plains.

According to a press release, the event will feature a light meal of staple food dishes, discussions about food access and next steps for the collaborative. The accomplishments of the Athens Food Policy Council last year also will be recognized.

"We are very pleased that Ruth Dudding (of the Health Department) is able to help coordinate the Athens Food Policy Council in the coming year," said Michelle Ajamian in the release. Ajamian directs the Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative, which launched Shagbark Seed & Mill Co. this year and helped coordinate the Food Policy Council last year.

"The council made tremendous progress last year because its members worked to increase purchasing from local farms by our local institutions and create a garden friendly code in Athens City," Ajamian added in the release. "We also saw an increase in community gardens in the county last year."

Ajamian explained that Community Food Initiatives and the County Health Department will partner with Shagbark this year to distribute recipes and conduct tastings in lower-wealth communities in our area.

"There are three primary barriers to getting healthy food to everyone in our community," Ajamian said in the release. "One is affordability, another is access, and the third is familiarity."

The grant from the Wallace Foundation is a USDA program aimed at making healthy food more accessible and affordable for everyone by solving the access and familiarity issues. ASFC's prototype mill and beanery, Shagbark Seed & Mill Co., just received its only grant in this region. Shagbark's focus is on open-pollinated regional grains, beans and seed crops, the release said.

"One part of the grant is to figure out how to bring costs down so these foods move from being a niche market to food for all," Brandon Jaeger, operations manager for Shagbark Seed & Mill Co., said in the release. "The first phase will focus on teaching those interested how to prepare the food, conducting tastings around the county, and getting feedback."

"When we gather on Sept. 16, come prepared to enjoy food and think together about how we can move food security forward for our region," Ajamian said in the release. "We want to capture everyone's thinking. That's what collaboration is all about."

This is an RSVP event so food can be planned accordingly. RSVP by Tuesday, Sept. 14, to or by calling 740-590-1501.

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