— The Food and Growers Association of Laughery Valley and Environs held its annual meeting, with the theme "Celebration of Local Food" Sept. 20 at The Butcher Shoppe Bar and Grill at Walhill Farm. Fresh local produce and meat were on the menu.
President Kathy Cooley told the 50 attendees about the group's accomplishments over the past year.
"FGA was highlighted in the report ‘Hoosier Farmer: Emergent Food Systems in Indiana’ .... Indiana's food industry is experiencing changes. Bloomington has a booming farmers’ market. It started there, and now people all over Indiana seek to see the farmer and where their food comes from. Over 100 communities support farmers’ markets.”
A food safety workshop and growers’ seminar, along with a farmers’ market breakfast and kids’ day were also held in Batesville.
"We have a very active school garden program. We now have gardens at six schools. It's an incredible way to get kids excited about food.” She announced several area restaurants, Batesville High School and Margaret Mary Community Hospital's employee cafeteria are serving local produce and/or meat.
Cooley thanked MMCH, which "has been very supportive of FGA since its inception. It looks at this as a health promotion.”
Looking to the future, the president stressed, "We have big goals and few people. We hope to get more folks serving on our board, and we're working on getting grant money.”
Sister Marge Wissman and Anne Baran gave an update on the Batesville Area Ministerial Association Food Pantry. Wissman explained why people come to the pantry.
"Sometimes they come into a one-time problem, like their place of work closed down for a week ....
“Most clients who do come to us do have jobs. The problems may be their hours were cut, they're making minimum wage or had to take off for medical problems. Some have husbands in the military. Some come because they just lost their jobs. Some come because they have mental or physical problems and are unable to work.
"I do the assistance program and help them pay for rent and electricity. We do not pay to fix cars or pay for cell phones, TVs or the Internet.”
Baran notes, "Our clients live in the Batesville Community School Corp. When they come in, they sign a sheet and are given a card to indicate how many people are in their family.
“We're a client-choice pantry, meaning they get to choose (food items), which means far less waste.
"The various churches have been great staffing the pantry .... (and) the people of Batesville have been absolutely great about donating. We also get government commodities.”
"The Herald-Tribune and WRBI have been very good about getting the word out to people.”
Baran also thanked the Ripley County Community Foundation for several large grants.
"As good as it is to get the canned and boxed food, what they really do appreciate is the fresh produce. They just love it. However, they don't always know what to do with the produce, so we swap recipes so they can start eating things they would never consider eating before.
"We use everything that's donated, but we still have to buy things you wouldn't think of,” she revealed.
Persons wishing to donate items can drop them off at the pantry, located at 120 Sycamore St., Wednesdays from noon-4 p.m.
Tax-deductible monetary contributions can be sent to Batesville Area Ministerial Association, P.O. Box 383, Batesville, IN 47006.
Diane Raver can be contacted at 812-934-4343, Ext. 114; or diane.raver@ batesvilleheraldtribune.com.