COPE Extravaganza focuses on healthy lifestyle
By Haley Proctor
Several Tallahassee food vendors gathered this past Saturday morning in a parking lot off Polk Street to promote ways to a healthy lifestyle.
They came as part of the Coalition for Childhood Obesity Prevention Education Extravaganza. The event focused on ways to eat healthy, the benefit of exercising and financial literacy.
For almost four hours, Shac Simmons of Chef’s Shac, and Empowered by Food, an outreach program, served up free veggie burgers.
Simmons also had plenty of advice for the crowd on cooking healthy meals. She suggested fresh herbs and less salt for a healthy diet.
“There are more African American children facing obesity due to their lack of access to nutrient-rich foods,” she said. “It deals with the economic challenges facing communities that may not have fresh markets.”
Communities without readily available fresh markets are considered “food deserts,” she said.
For example, she said, Frenchtown is designated a food desert because of the shortage of affordable and good quality foods. However, there is an effort to change that with the development of one of the four community gardens in town.
Not having quality food choices in areas like Frenchtown is unfortunate said Cortlyn Starr, a Tallahassee Food Network volunteer who also works with the Frenchtown community garden.
“There are liquor stores and gas stations,” Starr said. “(But) there is not a grocery store conducive to the population in that area.”
However, we should expect to begin seeing changes through the efforts of proactive groups that include the Tallahassee Food Network, Cornbreads and Collards and the Tallahassee Food Policy Council.
Joslin Bellamy, a den mother with Boy Scouts of America Pack 1700, praised the effort of the event’s organizers. She was glad that the boys she brought to the event had a chance to see what healthy eating looks and tastes like.
“What you eat affects you mentally and spiritually,” Bellamy said. “Take advantage of all the knowledge here around you.”
Ramon Stewart was there with his five children, too. He called it an opportunity to “educate yourself on the options you have available.”
The annual event is a part of a six-year program headed by Lance Gravlee, an affiliate of the University of Florida Anthropology Department. It has a partnership with Health Equity Alliance, while they conduct anthropological research on childhood obesity.
HEAT is funded by COPE to support the changes the coalition is trying to make.
“We are a network of collaborations to change the food system in Tallahassee,” Gravlee said, emphasizing the importance of “equitable access” and its beneficial toward better health.
Considering the cross-section of the community that the event attracted, organizers said it was a success.
“This is one initiative that has embraced itself around community engagement,” said Sokoya Finch, Co-Director of COPE and Director of Florida Family network. “I think this program has been successful because it has been embraced by the community.”