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Fresh, nutritious food was the focus of the Williamsburg Health Foundation’s annual awards ceremony Thursday.
This is the second year since the health foundation shifted its focus from exclusively recognizing healthcare professionals to extending its annual awards to any individuals and organizations in the Greater Williamsburg area that have made outstanding contributions to the health of the community.
This year’s four honorees all have food at the heart of their mission. The Williamsburg Farmers Market, KelRae Farms, Meals on Wheels and Virginia Peninsula Food Bank were all recognized for the roles they play in providing fresh, nutritious and tasty food to the people of the Williamsburg area.
The awards ceremony, which took place Thursday morning at the Williamsburg Lodge, was well attended by members of the community, including representatives from numerous area nonprofits and honorees from previous years.
Several local officials were also in attendance. School board members Heather Cordasco, Elise Emanuel, Kyra Cook and Ruth Larson, along with Superintendent Steve Constantino, were present to represent WJCC schools.
John McGlennon from the James City County Board of Supervisors was also in attendance, as were Dels. Monty Mason and Brenda Pogge.
The Williamsburg Farmers Market was singled out for its “Fresh Food Fund and Bonus Bucks Program,” an initiative that matches Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) money up to $20.
The farmers market also has ties to the Williamsburg-James City County Schools division via the School Health Initiative Program, otherwise known as SHIP. School chefs frequently use produce from the market and are on site most Saturdays providing demonstrations and samples of the kinds of food served to local schoolchildren.
While the Williamsburg Farmers Market excels at bringing fresh, local food to the people of Williamsburg, KalRae Farms is the one who supplies it. The farm, owned and run by Randy and Michelle Gulden, provides a variety of produce to local farmers markets and schools alike.
Currently KalRae provides a shipment of fresh produce to WJCC schools once a month, and Randy said he would “like to see our partnering with the schools grow” to twice a month in his remarks at the ceremony.
Williamsburg Area Meals on Wheels, also a recipient of KalRae Farms’ fresh produce, was another Health Foundation honoree. The program provides 130 meals per day, five days a week to residents of the Greater Williamsburg area who are physically or emotionally unable to get out of their homes and shop for themselves.
“We not only want out clients to get a hot meal, we want it to be nutritious too,” said owner and chef Jeff Aczel of the importance of using fresh produce.
Finally, the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank was recognized for its mobile food pantry program, which currently has three locations in the Williamsburg area.
The mobile food pantries place particular emphasis on providing fresh produce and lean proteins, as opposed to the types of canned meats and vegetables that are often associated with food banks.
Each honoree was awarded $5,000 from the Williamsburg Health Foundation.
The Williamsburg Farmers Market directed its award money back to SHIP, where it will be used to start a “Power of Produce” club that teaches children how to make healthy food choices,
KelRae Farm’s award money is going toward paying for a special education class at Lafayette High School, of which Randy and Michelle’s daughter is a member, to participate in a program at Dream Catchers Therapeutic Riding Center.
Meals on Wheels and the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank will both use the money to continue to support their respective missions.
“We could not be more delighted to see how our recipients have chosen to direct their cash awards, to make our community healthier,” said Randall Foskey, Williamsburg Health Foundation board member and awards committee chairman.
In his closing remarks at Thursday’s awards ceremony, Chairman of the Williamsburg Health Foundation Board of Trustees Jeffery Smith touched on the interconnected nature of health and wellness.
“Nothing happens in isolation,” Smith said. “Our honorees today collaborate with each other, our schools, for-profits and nonprofits alike to serve our community. We thank them.”