March 21, 2017.

Food Access Blog 1, Getting the Ball Rolling.

The first Food Access Working Group meeting was held on February 13, 2017. We met at Appalachian Sustainable Development in Abingdon, Virginia at 2:00 P.M. Though many were unable to make it, the meeting was full of wonderful discussions and the discovery of paths to be taken throughout the year. By the meetings end, the group had decided to hold its concentration on finding an appropriate and impactful intersection between two current programs. Kohl’s Morning Mile(link the page), developed through a partnership between Niswonger Children’s Hospital and Kohl’s, is a program dedicated to promoting healthy, active lifestyles in Elementary School students that they will potentially carry with them in years to come. The Summer Feeding Program, duplicated in several different organizations, was created to ensure that children in low-income families continue to receive nutritious meals, even when school is not in session.

The notion forming was to promote Summer Feeding at events such as the Kohl’s Morning Mile through verbal presentations and food demonstrations on the school grounds. However, when the last dismissal bell rings at school and summer vacation begins, the morning mile goes on vacation as well. The question is: What if we could participate in the creation of a summer version of this program? The morning mile could potentially gain new, year round life at the Summer Feeding sites! A project like this could engage all walks of life in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

Now that Food Access has made the decision on their project for 2017, the time has come to obtain as much information about the focus programs so that we may answer these questions: Summer Feeding is a Nation Wide program. Is the focus of Kohl’s Morning Mile strictly in Tennessee? How can we carry this program over the TN/VA state line? Is there some sort of policy hindering this possibility? Can we reach out to Wellmont Health Systems and get them on board with the program in hopes to broaden its reach?

The next meeting will be held at Blackbird Bakery in Bristol, Virginia and there have been two full hours set aside to properly feed this “brain child” on March 30th. We will be hosting speakers from Niswonger Children’s Hospital to lend us further information about Kohl’s Morning Mile, and representatives for the Summer Feeding Programs of the YWCA of Bristol, TN and Feeding America of Southwest Virginia.

It is truly amazing what ideas have already flourished by simply gathering such a diverse group of individuals into a central location to discuss creative ways in which we can address the major issues in our area; and this was just the first of many more to come. The ball is rolling and Food Access is steering it down a very bumpy, though possibly rewarding path.

by Jenni Roop