FEAST event planned at Crook County Library to brainstorm ways to improve access to healthy foods

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - FEAST event scheduled for March 10.

A recently developed local group is hosting an event next weekend at the Crook County Library to brainstorm ideas on how to improve access to healthy food in Crook County.

Crook County On The Move is hosting an event called FEAST, where the public is invited to discuss thoughts and concerns regarding the amount of healthy food available and how to make it more available to people with financial struggles.

CCOTM is a community action initiative which grew from Crook County's unsuccessful bid to become a Blue Zone community. The initiative is leading the effort to make healthy lifestyle choices easy and fun for Crook County residents. The goal is to improve wellness in the community through a collective impact movement engaging regional organizations and community members to promote healthy activities, awareness and accessibility to simple lifestyle changes that improve overall health. Three initial focus areas are Keep Moving (Movement), Be Nourished (Nutrition) and Stay Refreshed (Purpose). Hosting a FEAST event is one of many ways CCOTM is supporting community wellness goals.

FEAST (Food Education Agriculture Solutions Together) is a program of Oregon Food Bank to help local communities to come up with their own ideas on how to improve access to healthy foods.

The local FEAST event will be held at the Crook County Library's Broughton Room on Saturday, March 10.

"We are going to have break-out sessions at tables so people can have smaller conversations," said Acting CCOTM Chair Donna Barnes. "Then those ideas will be put up for the larger group to talk about and review."

The conversation will be facilitated by Tracy Gagnon, the Community Food Systems Developer for Oregon Food Bank, and will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Gagnon works with communities to come up with self-identified solutions to address food security. Before serving with the Food Bank, she worked in school gardens, Farm and Fish to School programs and 4-H.

"The goal of the event is to have a community-wide conversation to brainstorm ideas and actions to ensure everyone in Crook County has access to the healthy food they need," said Kristi Hiaasen, FEAST event organizer.

Lunch will be provided and an activity area will be provided for kids. The Food Bank is also committing $4,000 for projects that come out of the discussions to strengthen the local food system.

"A food system includes everything from where our food comes from and the issues that local food producers face, to how does it get to our grocery stores, can we afford it and is there waste that could be captured and used," Hiaasen said.

CCOTM is hoping for a diverse gathering of neighbors who represent the entire community. Hiaasen urges attendance.

"If we don't hear from all segments of our community, we will never be able to solve the entire problem," she said. "The ideas that come out of such a gathering could be very powerful. Just imagine what we can accomplish by working together."

More work will follow the FEAST event, Barnes said, as the $4,000 Oregon Food Bank grant is put into action.

"We hope to identify solutions that collectively the community can use to improve our access to food," she said.

To register, log onto or call 541-362-1210. The event is free, but organizers need an accurate count of participants for food.

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