Creating healthy communities through food

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Local Matters is all about food, good, healthy, nutritious food.

“I like to kid around when I teach classes and ask people ‘does anybody here eat food?’ Everybody eats food, right? And everybody needs good food, so this is absolutely vital,” said Growing Matters Program Manager Jesse Hickman with Local Matters.

Local Matters creates healthy communities through food education, access and advocacy.  The non-profit is on the front lines of fighting hunger and getting healthy food to those who need it.

“It’s really exciting to see kids get the aha moment of where their food comes from,” said Hickman as he spoke with NBC4’s Ellie Merritt about the new garden Local Matters planted outside Moler Elementary School in Columbus.

The NBC4 team is coming together to volunteer for Local Matters for its Nexstar “Founder’s Day of Caring” on June 16th and will be planting, watering and weeding in the community gardens.

Hickman plants dozens of gardens across Columbus with Local Matters, focusing on neighborhoods that struggle with access to healthy food.  The gardens provide fresh fruits and vegetables, but also a learning opportunity for children.

“They get so excited to grow their own food.  What a payoff it is to be able to give those fruits and vegetables to those kids,” said Hickman who teaches gardening classes through Local Matters and goes into schools across Central Ohio to teach students where their food comes from and how to care for a garden.

But that’s just one piece of the puzzle for Local Matters.  They also teach cooking classes at the Local Matters Kitchen on Parsons Avenue in Columbus. More than 13,000 people are served annually through Local Matters.

On the day Ellie visited, a group of students were cheering and clapping in the kitchen tasting the frittata they just made from scratch.

“We’re seeing kids eating their veggies,” said Local Matters Executive Director Michelle Moskowitz Brown with a smile, but there’s a very serious reason for Local Matter’s mission.

“We’re experiencing a health crisis in this country where the current generation of children is expected to have a shorter lifespan than their parents due to diet-related disease,” said Moskowitz Brown, speaking of diabetes.

So in the Local Matters Kitchen, students learn to cook locally grown produce from scratch and how to stretch their food budgets.

“Understanding where the food grows is one of those components, and then bringing it all back into the kitchen to use those skills and work with fresh ingredients…we’ll also give out bags of food for kids to take home to their families and we know in the summertime that’s especially important,” said Moskowitz Brown.

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