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AHA fosters and supports community efforts to make healthy eating and physical activity the way of life in Wake County.

Local Food and Cooking Know-how: The Farm It Forward Story

In Nikia Pratt’s community, fresh affordable produce is hard to find. Even when vegetables are available, she has found it a challenge to prepare them in a healthy way and in a way that her family would like. Nikia’s situation is not unique here in Wake County.

Nikia and her 10-year-old daughter Kassie participated in Farm It Forward for six weeks this summer in one of three sessions coordinated by AHA and its partners.  Thanks to Farm It Forward, though, Nikia has a new view and new skills to prepare food for her family. “It’s not as difficult as you might think to throw a healthy meal together,” she said. According to Nikia, even Kassie now feels confident enough to cook a meal for their family once a week.

 
Through Farm It Forward, the Pratt family and other participants were introduced to vegetables they had never tried. Nikia tried bok choy for the first time and discovered she really liked it. Participants were not simply given produce; they were also shown ways to cook the produce.
 

What Is Farm It Forward?

Once a week, families gather to attend a nutrition-based cooking class, prepare a healthy meal showcasing donated local produce, and eat together. At the end of the evening, they leave with a large bag of fresh local produce to feed their families for the week.
Once a week, families gather to attend a nutrition-based cooking class, prepare a healthy meal showcasing donated local produce, and eat together. At the end of the evening, they leave with a large bag of fresh local produce to feed their families for the week. Participants also leave with knowledge and skills to assist them in their effort to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their daily meals.
 
 
AHA has chronicled the Farm It Forward story on its web site. If you have missed the blogs, check them out here. The focus is on providing children, who have a medical need to eat in a more healthful way, and their families with fresh healthy food and the know-how to cook with it and enjoy it.
 

Family Night

Nikia and her family participated in the first session hosted by Wake County Cooperative Extension and featuring an NC Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) cooking class to teach them how to prepare and cook the abundance of produce. Currently, another session is underway, as well as one where the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle is providing its Cooking Matters class.
 
For the most part, participants enjoyed the recipes used in class and enjoyed meeting one of the farmers who grew their food: Patricia Parker of In Good Heart Farm. Lenya Moore, a mother whose families also participated in the first class, said it’s easy to get in the habit of cooking the same foods and dishes all of the time. Now, though, she has started making some of the recipes from the cooking classes on a regular basis. In particular, she discovered wraps are a wonderful way to incorporate various veggies into a meal.
 

The Wake County Cooperative Extension Farm It Forward participants.

Participants enjoyed the taste of almost all the recipes, and Nikia discovered that “sometimes healthy foods actually taste better.”

 
 “Farm It Forward is a wonderful example of how partners come together, each contributing something unique and for the greater good, resulting in meaningful impacts for the community and its citizens,” said Cooperative Extension’s Carol Mitchell, RD. Her vision for Farm It Forward is to find ways to turn the pilot project into a sustainable model that can be replicated here and in other communities.
 
 
AHA thanks all the partners involved in this year’s program, including: WakeMed Energize! (whose past participants joined us for this summer’s Farm It Forward program), In Good Heart Farm, The Produce Box, Wake County Cooperative Extension and the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle.
 
Thanks to Amber Pulaski, a UNC School of Publich Health student who interned at AHA this summer, for this article.
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