Williamsburg Health Foundation presents 2015 Annual Awards

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com

Some people say eating healthy is not a natural desire.

As manager of the Williamsburg Farmers Market, Tracy Herner has seen otherwise.

"I think people, if given the choice, will want to feed their families as healthy as possible," Herner said.

On Sept. 24, the Williamsburg Health Foundation presented its 2015 Annual Awards to four organizations for their efforts in making nutritious food accessible to all Greater Williamsburg residents.

In addition to the Farmers Market, KelRae Farm, The Virginia Peninsula Food Bank and Williamsburg Meals on Wheels received awards.

According to "Map the Meal Gap," a 2013 study by hunger relief charity Feeding America, over 14,000 people in Greater Williamsburg experience food insecurity: the lack of reliable access to sufficient, healthy food.

"The community needs to in a sense ... set the table, so people can have the opportunity to make those choices," Jeanne Zeidler, president of the foundation, said.

KelRae Farm, a family-owned farm in Toano, received an award for its partnerships with Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools and Williamsburg Meals on Wheels.

"We just like to provide them with the best local, fresh produce that we can," said owner Randy Gulden, who has farmed all his life.

It's not easy. Selling produce directly to institutions like schools requires added effort and certifications.

But any increased difficulty on the Gulden family's end doesn't deter the four awardees from increasing healthy opportunities for the community.

The Williamsburg Farmers Market received an award for its recently developed legacy project: the Fresh Food Fund and Bonus Bucks Program. It allows people receiving food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to easily use those SNAP dollars at the market.

The farmers market also doubles SNAP dollars, up to $20.

"Their power of choice and their purchasing power is greatly increased," Herner said.

The Virginia Peninsula Food Bank received an award for its Mobile Pantry Program, bringing fresh produce and lean meats to those in need. The food bank reaches hundreds of people each month with three mobile food pantries throughout Greater Williamsburg.

Williamsburg Meals on Wheels received an award for providing nutritious meals to seniors, many affected by health conditions. The organization delivers 130 meals per day, five days a week, to the community.

Formerly awarded only to individuals, the annual awards recently expanded to encompass organizations.

It takes a lot of people to create a healthy community, said Randall Foskey, chair of the annual awards committee.

And it takes collaboration not just within organizations, but among them. KelRae Farm sells at the Williamsburg Farmers Market, as it has for 12 years, and Meals on Wheels utilizes produce from KelRae in the meals it provides.

"If all of us as individuals come together ... there is no doubt that ours can be a community with ever-increasing opportunities for health," Jeffrey Smith, chair of foundation's board of trustees, said in the ceremony's closing remarks.

The Williamsburg Health Foundation is a non-profit, grant-making organization promoting health in Greater Williamsburg since 1996.

For more information, visit williamsburghealthfoundation.org.

Bridges can be reached at 757-345-2342.

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