Supporting Community Health With Alyssa Anderson
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Lee County’s local food landscape is growing. Agents across program areas in the County Extension Office provide support and offer resources and programs that promote local foods in the community such as the Sanford Farmers Market, Visit NC Farms App, and Sandhills Farm-to-Table. This team approach along with community collaboration has expanded their reach and opened up opportunities for education in the area of local foods. Over the course of Alyssa Anderson’s three years in the community, these projects have allowed her to connect her programming in nutrition and food safety to local foods.
Alyssa is the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent in Lee County. Her programming primarily focuses on nutrition, local foods, and food safety. She enjoys being able to approach education around nutrition and food in a comprehensive way that includes community members and partners.
Some examples of her programs include: conducting food pantry nutrition education, coordinating the LEEding Toward Wellness Community Health Coalition, partnering with Minda Daughtry, the Horticulture Agent in Lee County, to provide radio spotlights highlighting growing, preparing, and preserving local foods on Life 103.1, and providing nutrition and hands-on cooking programs such as Med Instead of Meds, Cook Smart Eat Smart, and 4-H Cooking Camp.
When Alyssa started with Extension, one of the first partnerships she formed was with a food pantry that served 700 families each month. Through conversation she learned that farmers in the area donate extra produce and that food pantry clients wanted to learn recipes on how to prepare these foods. As a result, Alyssa developed monthly food demonstrations at the pantry and highlighted local foods using the recipe cards and mini lessons developed through the Local Foods Food Bank and Food Pantry Workgroup of the Extension Local Food Program Team.
This partnership grew, and with the support from the Steps to Health Program, Health Matters Grant, and Food Bank and Food Pantry Workgroup, Alyssa helped to start the Borrowing Kitchen. This project allows for Steps to Health and EFNEP participants to borrow kitchen equipment, similar to checking out a book from the library, to support at home food preparation. COVID has delayed this project for the time being, but the Food Bank and Food Pantry Workgroup hopes to evaluate it as a pilot project that may be replicated in the future.
Alyssa adapted her other programming to fit restrictions put in place by COVID. Despite some setbacks, having to adapt to teaching cooking skills in a virtual setting has helped her program grow in new ways. Over the last eight months, the Lee County Office created YouTube videos to share through social media and newsletters. Some of the videos she created were supplements to the “Lee County Still Growing” series which highlighted local agriculture in the community and the Visit NC Farms App. Working as part of a team, whether within the office or across counties, has been extremely helpful in developing meaningful and high quality resources.
When asked about which resources are helpful for her programming. Alyssa pointed towards the Local Foods Program Team, which has developed helpful and relevant resources around local foods in the community. She suggests learning more about these resources and joining a workgroup that is involved in an area that you feel would be helpful for your county. For her, this interest was working in food banks and food pantries. If you are interested in learning more about this area, she suggests the Local Foods Food Bank and Food Pantry Workgroup Toolkit and Steps to Health PSE Food Pantry Toolkit to get started.
Looking forward, Alyssa hopes that the support and reach of local foods continues to grow. She is excited to see how innovative programs such as mobile farmers markets, farm-to-school programs, and food pantry work continues to expand access to local foods across the state.
Alyssa’s Favorite Local Food Recipe:
My favorite recipe that uses mostly local foods is fresh salsa because of the flexibility in ingredients. I love making this with whatever fruits and vegetables are in season. I usually eat it on it’s own as a side or on top of fish.