PULASKI, Va. – The Town of Pulaski is increasing access to local, fresh produce and promoting healthy living.
The town received a Local Foods, Local Places federal technical assistance grant through the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Federal and state officials will host public meetings to get feedback on how to connect locals with fresh food in the area.
The efforts will also support local farmers, including Amy Tanner.
“It’s just been remarkable the connections that we’ve made just because we grow vegetables," said Tanner, who runs Pear Tree Hill Farm in Pulaski County with her husband.
Tanner and Pulaski officials said there is a food desert in the New River Valley. It can be difficult for families to know where to find affordable, healthy and local produce and get there. Public transportation is limited in the rural area and many families are low-income.
“I think there’s a need for good-quality food and healthy food," Tanner said.
According to Deputy Pulaski Town Manager Nicole Hair, obesity rates in Pulaski are very high. That's why she said getting input from the community is important.
"Where we are now and where we (do) want to go in the future?" Hair said. "We'll have an action plan in place that will allow us to move forward and put those strategies into implementation."
Ideas include adding sidewalks and trails connecting to the farmers' market in town, building more community gardens, adding mobile food trucks and teaching healthy eating habits.
These changes could also boost the economy and local farms, including Tanner's.
"Others may be inspired to start new businesses or start new farms,” Tanner said.
The public meetings are being held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Pulaski Train Depot on South Washington Avenue.