After a brief introduction from Food Council Chair, Dan Hoffman, and welcoming remarks by Food Literacy Co-Chairs Lindsey Parsons and Elizabeth Hubley, the lightning presentations got underway. Each speaker had 5 minutes to share with the audience what their organization is doing to teach children nutrition, healthy eating and cooking practices, food safety techniques, and more.
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Guest presenters included:
Food Council and Food Literacy Working Group Members presented as well:
- Dave Lambert, of Graceful Growing Together, talked about food safety practices such as temperature regulation and the dangers of cross-contamination, and the importance of teaching these things to young children.
- Food Literacy Co-Chair Lindsey Parsons, executive director of Real Food For Kids-Montgomery, discussed how her organization is working to get healthier food options in Montgomery County Public Schools.
- Laura Howard, Community Benefit Manager at Kaiser Permanente, talked about her organization’s Thriving Schools Program, an effort dedicated to improving the health of students, staff and teachers in K-12 schools. Their work in schools is focuses on four key areas: healthy eating, active living, school employee wellness and positive school climate.
- Sheila Crye explained the efforts of her organization, Our Young Chefs, to teach cooking techniques and practices to children experiencing food insecurity. In her own words, "Taste is top priority. If we want to widen the range of young people's healthy food preferences, we need to show them how to prepare delicious foods that make their bodies healthy."
- Jessica Weiss, Executive Director of growingSOUL, described her company’s effort to recover food before it is sent to a landfill, transform it into nutritious food, and then provide it to community organizations feeding those in need.
After the lightning presentations, the audience and presenters broke into small groups to discuss these issues further. Table topics included “Culinary Education & Food Safety,” “Farm to School/School Gardens,” “Healthier Food Advocacy,” “Nutrition and Hunger,” “Nutrition Education,” and “Sustainable Food Systems.”
The table discussions were widely believed to be the highlight of the event, with lively conversations and participants including representatives of County and Federal Government, as well as local non-profits. Attendees had the opportunity to discuss these issues with other County residents, share their ideas, and get a more in depth understanding about the topics discussed in the presentations.
Heather Bruskin, Manager of the Food Council, reflected that "This event was a perfect example of the Food Council's mission in action- a gathering of individuals who live, work, and play in Montgomery County all connected by a common interest: encouraging healthy eating among local children. The presenters shared inspiring, creative, and effective illustrations of how they they are already making positive impacts in our communities, while highlighting the need for increased funding, support, and capacity for efforts like theirs. Everyone in attendance left the evening better informed and personally motivated to work on food literacy issues."
The Public Meeting was a great success and the Montgomery County Food Council looks forward to hosting more informative, interesting, and fun events such as this to Montgomery County citizens in the future.