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Project connects Albany area farmers with communities

As reported in the Albany Herald:

Southwest Georgia Project officials say healthy food options lead to healthy lives

ALBANY — The Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education held a fresh food mixer in downtown Albany on Thursday to help connect local farmers/food producers with the community in which they live and to encourage healthier lifestyles through better eating habits.

We are promoting the healthy food program today,

said Karen Lawrence, an ag specialist for SWGP. “These are foods that have come directly from our local farmers. What we want people to take away from this is that we can support our local farmers. We have farmers living right here in our community, and we should support them. Also, we want people to know how to take the foods that we eat on a regular day-to-day basis and turn those foods into healthy foods so we can lead healthy lives. We can add a lot to our lives if we change the way we eat.”

The Southwest Fresh Mixer kicked off at noon, and the set-up resembled a small farmer’s market. Produce stands from several local and regional producers were on display, allowing visitors to learn just what kind of fresh food is available in the area. A variety of dishes was prepared from the locally grown food and provided for visitors to sample. Among the dishes were squash, okra and tomato succotash; lentil humus; cornbread, and bean pie.

Local producers who participated in Thursday’s mixer included Sisters Produce and More, a member of the Georgia Women’s Producer Association out of Dawson. Representatives of the group showcased their love for healthy foodthrough cooking demonstrations and the selling of fresh produce boxes. (For info, call 229-995-6619).

Also participating were Sylvester’s Joel Rogers’ Honey, a beekeeper and honey producer for more than 20 years, who displayed some of the products he has available at Carroll’s Sausage and Piggly Wiggly (call 229-206-5634); JCBD Produce Powell Farms, a farmer for more than 50 years, offered a wide variety of crops, including watermelon, collard greens, rutabagas, kale and broccoli (call 229-325-3959); and the Green Family Farm, a third-generation farm that has been in operation since 1957, which is run by five brothers in Worth County(call 229-776-4439).

The Southwest Fresh presentation also included a partial viewing of the 2008 documentary “Food, Inc.” by filmmaker Robert Kenner. The Academy Award-nominated film examines corporate farming in the United States, concluding that agribusiness produces food that is unhealthy, in a way that is environmentally harmful and abusive of both animals and employees.

According to SWGP Director Amber Bell, the project was founded in 1961 and was created to educate, engage and empower communities through grassroots organizing and advocacy.

Combating poverty and high unemployment rates, SWGP works to change the climate and culture regarding historically negative agriculture-related experiences for minorities.

In October of 2015, SWGP purchased the long-vacant Winn Dixie Supermarket on the corner of Oakridge Drive and Radium Springs Road in Albany for an unprecedented $1 from Phoenix Investors LLC. The collective intends to turn the 46,890-square-foot facility into a regional food hub that supports local farmers, local economies and communities.

According to SWGP officials, the purchase of the property is an opportunity to increase healthy food consumption in a community that does not have steady access to fresh food options, along with building and supporting a stronger local agricultural economy.

“This endeavor has been made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which awarded Southwest Georgia Project a $683,400 grant,” said project grant manager Whitney Kimbrough. “The Southwest Fresh campaign we are launching today will address food justice and health equity in Southwest Georgia. We really just want to generate excitement in the community around healthy food, eating and getting the farmers connected to the citizens. Our ultimate goal is to create a local food economy as well as improve overall health in Southwest Georgia.”