Good News in Food Fight
By Ken Walker-
Victory in the war on obesity will never be won via titanic, headline-grabbing battles, but through quiet, grassroots initiatives that slowly turn the tide. With Huntington at the center of this skirmish—which Steve Willis and I chronicled in Winning the Food Fight— I find it encouraging to see increasing indications of progress.
The latest trio of events started with a story about the trend toward healthy living. It has stimulated the expansion of what had been a downtown pretzel outlet into a carry-out and delivery business offering fresh salads.
Salads With a Twist offers 10 “signature salads” and a choice of 50 vegetables, toppings and dressings for create-your-own aficionados.
You can still get a pretzel (a pretzel twist comes with a salad), but the options for lighter fare are much greater.
“I think people are very health conscious these days,” owner John Hutchinson told the Huntington Herald-Dispatch. “Everyone, young, old or middle-aged, wants to eat healthier meals and live longer…I think you just feel different after you get full on a salad for lunch. You feel better about yourself.”
Indeed you do. So when I go out for lunch the local Pita Pit franchise is one of my favorites, since it offers several vegetarian options and apple slices for a side.
The Salads With a Twist shop isn’t the only example of this healthy trend. Funded with help from a Kickstarter starter campaign 20 months ago and sustained by hundreds of hours of volunteer labor, The Wild Ramp local foods market is preparing to move to larger quarters.
Presently located in a small downtown space, come warm weather the Wild Ramp will relocate to the historic Central City Market. In its new home, it will be able to offer more workshops and enlarge opportunities for local producers.
The non-profit board that runs the market recently announced that from July of 2012 through the end of 2013 it had generated nearly $346,000 for 121 food producers in the Tri-State Area.
“It has been amazing to see the community come together to build this market from scratch,” says board president Gail Patton, who also directs a business incubator helping entrepreneurs bring their vision to reality. “It is rewarding to see the market making such an impact on the local economy.”
Not only is the Wild Ramp’s success a feather in the area’s cap, the same day I read about the opening of the new salad shop, another story chronicled how a $220,000 foundation grant will increase local food production.
Channeled through the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI), the grant will support the goal of producing and adding value to West Virginia grown (and raised) food.
Charlotte Weber, RCBI director, says the funds will help to pull together knowledge and experience and couple it with available technology.
“We want to start new processes within the local food industry that will help it grow and create jobs,” Weber says.
That brings us back to Salads With a Twist. When a societal movement is gathering the kind of steam that allows forward-looking entrepreneurs to create jobs and expand the economy, we are seeing the kind of consciousness-raising that bodes well for the future.