March 22, 2017.

Food & Health Blog 1, Crashing Meetings.

The Food and Health Systems Working Group became the second group to meet in 2017. We convened at Appalachian Sustainable Development in Abingdon, Virginia on March 16th at 10:00am, a location in which none of its members were familiar with meeting in the past. Little things like this tend to happen when you’ve got a newbie trying to run the show. Luckily, after all of the confusion, the Chair and Co-chair of the group (something the first working group I had met with didn’t have), Elizabeth Hall and Jessica Arney, schooled me on where exactly I could help them with their group, that I didn’t have to work quite as hard to get the meetings together as I needed to with others. AWESOME, some weight had been lifted from my overwhelmed shoulders! All they needed from me was to take the minutes during the meetings, though I assured them I was at their beck and call if they needed me.

Unfortunately, after the little fiasco I pulled by scheduling the meeting in a strange new place, only three group members, other than Kathlyn Terry and myself were able to make it, with the addition of one call in. The discussion began with a rundown of the 2016 project. The Food and Health Systems Working Group created and distributed a series of educational bookmarks that provided content and resources for healthy eating and food access. The topics included menu planning on a budget, budget friendly tips and recipes, food utilization, and seasonal produce. They had 100,000 bookmarks printed, 25,000 per topic. To date, there have been 90,350 bookmarks circulated throughout Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, leaving only about 12,000 bookmarks left for distribution. WOW!

Next, we started down the long, winding path of our “What’s next for us?” discussion. It didn’t take long for a decision to be made when, our only phone participant of the day, Alexis Close, began telling us about a potential pilot program expected to get started this year in Washington County, Tennessee. A VeggieRX or veggie prescription program, as modeled after a similar project in Whitesburg, Kentucky, was being planned to take place right under our noses, the perfect situation for a group of health and nutrition professionals to sink their teeth into. The decision had been made: the group decided they wanted to learn as much as possible about this program and how on Earth they could participate in such a fresh notion. We would gather this information by crashing the planning team meeting for the program itself…Kind of like wedding crashers, but with more of a purpose. It was final: on March 23rd, 2017, we would participate in a meeting take over at First Tennessee Development District and, much like sponges, absorb as much information as humanly possible to make those professional wheels start turning and get things done this year!

by Jenni Roop