When they were announced as the big winner of the Potluck and Pitch event Thursday night, supporters of the “Healthy, Wealthy and Wise” project let out shouts of joy and literally danced with their oversize check for $1,320.
“A very big surprise,” said organizer Joretta Brewton Akpo-Sanni, whose project will build on her current Ray of Hope Haven for Tween Adventures that provides afterschool snacks, activities and tutoring. The runner-up project, Local Food is Good Medicine, received $500.
The winning proposals were chosen from among five local efforts that presented their ideas on how to improve access to fresh and healthy local food. The event at The Clubhou.se on Telfair Street was organized by Augusta Food Oasis and Georgia Organics, which raised matching funds for the final awards.
Many of them focused on helping children grow food and teaching people to eat well as a way of improving their lives.
Akpo-Sanni, a retired principal from Barton Chapel Elementary School, said the project is her “new season” and they have been funding it on their own. Her project would include raised beds and hydroponic gardening, or raising plants in water. The project is in association with Harmony Baptist Church in the Laney-Walker area and also around the May Park area.
In her short presentation, Akpo-Sanni didn’t even get to share ideas she has to work in Dyess Park to help the homeless there. Holding her oversized check in hand, she was already listing things she wanted to start doing right away to volunteer Saundra Kelly, who was writing them all down.
A lot of her ideas are rooted in old wisdom, that exercise is good, actions speak louder than words, and eating your greens is good for you. She has proof – one aunt is 96 years old and another will turn 101 years old in December.
“They ate greens all of their lives,” Akpo-Sanni said.
Monica Jones had a similar idea about establishing a preschool garden in conjunction with Tabernacle Baptist Church but wanted to involve the whole Laney-Walker community. Holding her 16-month-old daughter, Kaila, she said children can learn these lessons at an early age and it becomes ingrained in them.
“If they see growing their own food as a part of life, it will never leave them,” Jones said.
LaRahna Hughes, who was presenting the Local Food is Good Medicine project, said food was a matter of life and death.
“There’s some killers in our community that are running rampant,” she said, ticking off diabetes, hypertension and obesity. But it is going to take “long-term transformational change” to impact these things and create lasting differences, Hughes said.
The community needs to begin “looking at food through the eyes of social justice,” she said. Her project would begin with a symposium to explore these issues and bring everyone together to work on the problem and talk about values.
“We have to have a value that says local food is good for us,” Hughes said.
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or firstname.lastname@example.org