New county health coalition celebrates area food ministries
by Jennifer Cohron
Mar 12, 2014 | 1708 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dianne Lollar, the nutrition director at the Walker County Health Department, speaks Tuesday during an appreciation event for area food providers. Daily Mountain Eagle - Jennifer Cohron
Dianne Lollar, the nutrition director at the Walker County Health Department, speaks Tuesday during an appreciation event for area food providers. Daily Mountain Eagle - Jennifer Cohron
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The Walker County Health Action Partnership hosted an appreciation event for area food providers at First United Methodist Church in Jasper on Monday.

One of the goals of the newly-formed group is to improve local access to healthy food.

According to statistics gathered by HAP, more than half of local restaurants are fast food establishments.

Dianne Lollar, the nutrition director at the Walker County Health Department, said members of HAP hope to provide local residents a healthier alternative by connecting local farmers with merchants and consumers.

“While our state produces an abundance of agricultural products, we as a whole do not consume enough fresh fruits and vegetables. Then we have health issues like obesity and chronic disease, and studies tell us that those are linked to a lack of fresh fruit and vegetable consumption,” Lollar said.

Walker County currently ranks 65th out of 67 Alabama counties in regards to health and well-being.

Food insecurity is another obstacle that residents face.

Approximately 12,500 people in Walker County rely on food stamps for their nutrition, and 8,600 children depend on the free or reduced school lunch program.

HAP coordinator Chris Nuss thanked the operators of the eight different soup kitchens and food pantries in attendance for what they are doing to meet local food needs.

“You are not just ending hunger. You are caring for a whole person with real needs, real potential and real hopes and dreams for their lives. When they leave you, not only have they been fed and know that their children and seniors will be taken care of, but they have hope because somebody cares,” Nuss said.

Most area food providers reported during a registration process on Monday that they would like to provide more fresh fruits and vegetables to their clients.

Amanda Storey of the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama said produce is available through her agency to members for a shared maintenance fee of 10 cents per pound.

Area food providers can also benefit from a “crop drop” that is scheduled for this Saturday in Jasper. Approximately 40,000 pounds of apples will be delivered and distributed to the Food Bank’s network of nonprofit agencies in five-pound bags.

HAP is a coalition of Walker Area Community Foundation, Walker Baptist Medical Center, United Way of Central Alabama, the University of Alabama and various other agencies with a mission to make Walker County a healthier place to live.

Four priority groups have been formed, including Healthy Food Choices, Healthy People and Livable Communities.

The next event sponsored by HAP will be “A Weekend of Fun, Fitness and Activity” in May.

For more information, visit www.WalkerHealthAction.org.