Small group shares meal to promote healthy, locally produced food

The baked apples from the north Georgia mountains must have smelled yummy enough.

Enticing enough for a 9-year-old boy who’d just scooped a pile of mac-and-cheese onto his plate to, after saying to no one in particular, “I don’t know what these are,” pluck a single apple slice from the serving dish.

The boy, there with his parents, was among the dozen or so people who turned out for a potluck lunch Monday to promote fresh food and, among other things, ways to get it into local schools.

In a social hall at Centenary United Methodist Church, Macon Roots, a fledgling organization that put on the meal and meeting, was taking part in nationwide “Eat-In” seeking to encourage healthy eating for schoolchildren.

Macon Roots organizer Mark Vanderhoek said the nation’s food-distribution system “needs to be more local ... because that’s what our bodies, for 10,000 years, have been accustomed to.”

Vanderhoek said the movement, in a push to get away from using so many processed foods, is looking to have schools start their own vegetable gardens and serve the food to students as it tries “to get food closer to the people who eat it.”

“We’re trying to help build networks for farmers to build access points,” he said.

One of the people who attended Monday’s gathering, David Davis, an English professor at Mercer University, recently taught a course on Southern foods.

He said it is interesting how consumers in Middle Georgia might well go to the grocery store and buy peaches grown in South America.

“When there are peaches right down the road,” Davis said.

He said that putting locally grown food in schools would be a good start to promote healthy eating as well as helping the area economy.

“Inroads will be made when people decide that it matters to them,” Davis said.