Local Matters puts healthful meals in reach

Day by Day
Local Matters puts healthful meals in reach

By LIZ THOMPSON
December 31, 2018
This Week News

 “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

This old adage is attributed to many different cultures. Unfortunately, food insecurity, including lack of access to fresh food, is real for too many.

During the holidays, many of us have reached for one too many sweets and second helpings of all kinds of food. Dieting becomes a New Year’s resolution.

We should be mindful of our diet, not dieting, throughout our lives. No matter our age, diseases such as Type 2 diabetes might plague us in part due to poor food choices. If we never learned how to prepare foods healthfully or have no available fresh food, it complicates overall health.

Through the years, I learned how to love cooking from scratch using basic foods. I have been fortunate to have a garden for many years.

Not everyone has these opportunities. That is where Local Matters comes in.

In 2005, co-founders Michael Jones and Noreen Warnock were looking for answers to big questions about our food system. They wanted to keep our children healthier and ensure that everyone had access to healthful and affordable food.

Jones is a chef. When he and his wife were expecting their first child, he read an article that said children of his child’s generation would be the first whose life expectancy would be shorter than their parents’.

When he learned that food was the root of the problem, he was called to action.

Warnock grew up in a low-income family that struggled to make ends meet. As a mother of two who understood the role food played in raising a healthy family on a budget, she advocated for organic food on local grocery-store shelves. She wanted everyone to have equal access to healthful foods.

Warnock’s work with community organizations led to the creation of the Greater Columbus Foodshed Project. This project helped create more than 20 community gardens.

These two founders’ visions became Local Matters in 2008.

The 20 staff members and 200 active volunteers work with families to teach them how to shop, plan and prepare healthful foods on a budget.

Local Matters, based in south Columbus (Ohio), has partnered with schools, hospitals, Maryhaven Women’s Center, Mount Carmel College of Nursing and food-access partners to reach those in need.

“Food is pivotal in health. Dietary choices can promote recovery from disease, worsen chronic illness and influence day-to-day energy levels,” said Kelsey Sicker, a member of the Ohio State University College of Medicine’s class of 2019. My involvement with Local Matters has given me comfort in discussing food and cooking, particularly in a relatable way for patients to readily apply to daily life.”

This year, Local Matters will launch Fresh Stand. It is an affordable, mobile, fruit-and-vegetable stand designed to provide food access.

It will partner with corner stores to sell fresh produce that, when paired with the store’s shelf-stable items such as rice, pasta, flour, sugar and oil, will allow customers to create a whole, healthful and affordable meal.

There will be hands-on demonstrations to show how to simplify food-preparation habits, build new skills and give people confidence to create a delicious meal.

Fresh Stand will work with leadership at churches and other places of worship to sell produce through Second Sundays, during which the Fresh Stand will sell produce and meal bags directly to residents on a monthly basis.

Local Matters will sell produce through Fresh Stand at schools, recreation centers and community growing spaces, allowing students and families to purchase meal ingredients after school hours.

We can make a personal difference with our own choices and teaching our children.

Learn more by calling Local Matters at 614-263-5662, emailing info@ local-matters.org or reading about what its volunteers and staff are doing at local-matters.org.

 

Frustration out west spurred self-assurance

Frustration out west spurred self-assurance

By LIZ THOMPSON

February 19, 2018

This Week News

Twenty-two years ago this month, I did something I regret.

I have reconciled, but can’t forget, so I hope this will serve as a fair warning to others.

If you have ever visited or lived in the Southwest — in particular, Arizona — you’ll understand in a moment.

Winter is the most beautiful time of year there. The mountains burst with riotous flowers. Even the spiky cacti bloom.

When my husband and I moved to Phoenix in July, we were greeted by record heat of 121 degrees. We learned quickly not to go barefoot on the concrete, to drink water all day and to leave the car windows open a bit.

Once winter hit, 70 degrees felt cold. Don’t laugh — that’s 50 degrees cooler than the hottest time of summer.

In job interviews, I was upfront about my hearing loss, not yet the self-advocate I would become. A job offer came, and my only request was that I would not be asked to answer phones. “No problem,” I was told by the CEO’s secretary in the interview.

I shared an office with that same woman, and within a week, she found repeated reasons to leave our office for long periods of time. I reminded her of my request and she said to take messages.

That was like asking a 5-year old to type the financial reports for me.

Failure and many embarrassing situations ensued. I hated feeling incompetent.

A phone ringing put my stomach in knots. Names and numbers were almost impossible for me to comprehend without caller ID. My boss did all he could to help me, but he, too, was baffled. Other staffers were very kind, as well.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was still young.

Finally, I contacted an Arizona state agency for the deaf and those with partial hearing loss, asking for assistance on how to handle the situation. My first clue to the problem should have been when the agency contact suggested meeting at a noisy restaurant. I had to read her lips and have her repeat and repeat.

Her advice, which I should have questioned and, unfortunately, was one of the comments I understood, was: “Without a college degree, you’ll never get a job paying above minimum wage.”

I shook internally, like I do when something serious is impending or happening.

We were about to leave and I said the conversation would have been easier using sign language.

“You know sign?” she said casually. “I didn’t think so since you aren’t deaf.”

But I did know it, and I soon was to be called “functionally deaf.”

Since she was supposed to be the expert, I thought I had no other options. I didn’t know who else to ask.

My husband and I talked it through many times, but we had no other ideas for my employment. Finally, I begged my husband to move back to Ohio — to what was familiar.

He picked up my final paycheck for me. The employee asked him why I was leaving. When he told her my hearing loss was making it difficult to do my job, she said, “I wish she’d said something. My sister is deaf. I could have helped her.”

My husband left a job he loved in a place we’d both learned to love to come back to Ohio, all because he loves me.

We returned to Ohio in February, the grayest month. I swore I’d never get myself in a spot like that again and that I would find answers, even when they seemed elusive.

That experience made me an advocate for people with hearing loss or any special need. I never wanted anyone to have that much doubt in their abilities or think options were so few.

Seven years later, with me now sporting a cochlear implant and true ability to hear and understand, we moved back to the Valley of the Sun. I worked in schools with special-needs children, hoping to spark their confidence. Three years later, we chose to move back to Ohio.

God didn’t put that old doubt in my mind, so be careful when taking advice — expert or not. Don’t live on regrets — learn from them.