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McDowell Local Food Advisory Council is one of several WNC HOP organizations working hard to ensure community members can access fresh local food. This focus aligns perfectly with HOP, which aims to build a sustainable network of human service organizations providing equitable access to healthy food, reliable transportation, affordable and safe housing, and interpersonal safety services.
McDowell LFAC was excited to join the pilot because it offered a new way to support their local food system and those who have difficulty accessing it. “If we don’t have our local farmers growing and the ability to buy from them, we don’t have food,” explained Linda Hamrick, HSO supervisor at McDowell LFAC. “HOP allows us to strengthen relationships we already have and create new ones.” This past year alone, the organization spent $95,000 to purchase fresh produce from local farmers for distribution to community members in need. McDowell LFAC currently provides healthy food boxes and fruit and vegetable prescriptions to more than 40 HOP participants every week – neighbors like John who recently experienced a heart attack that left him weak and in need of a pacemaker.
“When I first met John, he could barely walk and his heart was operating at only 10% of its capacity,” Linda shared. During her initial home visit, she discovered John also needed a wheelchair ramp and a cooktop, both of which she helped him obtain.
Several months later, John is making big strides, and not just during his daily walks. His heart has regained 40% of its capacity, and he no longer needs a pacemaker. With Linda’s support, and weekly food box deliveries, he’s learning to cook and eat fresh foods that support his health.
“Another client shed over 100 pounds,” Linda shared. “He has several health challenges that the extra weight made worse. Now he’s noticing how different foods make him feel, and he’s choosing foods that help him feel better.” Linda is grateful to see that the fresh leafy greens, organic produce, and local meat she delivers each week is making a difference. His father often tells her that the pilot has been a big blessing for his son.
“These face-to-heart connections are so important,” Linda explained. “Especially for those who are homebound. They count on seeing me every week.” Linda counts on it too. “I can’t tell you how much joy and happiness this program brings me,” she acknowledged. “I get to share food that is changing people’s lives. I get to be part of their healing. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”
–Linda Hamrick, HSO supervisor, McDowell LFAC