CentreWorks features project, hotline focused on fresh food accessibility

Published 3:14 pm Thursday, January 21, 2021

Over the next two weeks, CentreWorks’ FUSION Community Collaboration Group: “Access to Fresh Food in Danville” team of Centre College students will be taking calls over a hotline for members of the community to share their experiences with accessibility to fresh foods, including fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and other unprocessed goods.

“Overall, CentreWorks is here to build resilience in the community, having the college and Danville and the area working together on various projects,” said Anthony Margida, one of the executive directors of CentreWorks along with executive director Andrea Margida. “These projects are all things that are aimed at tackling problems, dealing with social challenges, and also building new businesses.”

CentreWorks is currently doing its work virtually, he said, but on the third floor of the Hub building downtown, intentionally located in the center of town, CentreWorks is working on a physical space under construction, which he said will be important down the line to form connections within the community.

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The FUSION Access to Fresh Food in Danville team has been speaking with members of the community about fresh food accessibility over the past few months, including Jeff Jewel, executive director of the Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, churches and other groups, and hosted a community Zoom session about fresh food accessibility in October. The phone hotline is partially meant to provide a way for the community to connect with the team if they do not have access to Zoom or aren’t comfortable with the platform, said one of the students involved in the project, Maddy Jenkins. She said people can call the hotline to share their personal experience with accessibility to fresh foods regardless of whether they find it easy or difficult.

“Access is something different than insecurity because access is something that everybody deals with,” Jenkins said. “Everybody has some kind of connection to access to fresh food.”

Another one of the students involved, John Bingaman, said the hotline is less about disseminating information and more about connection, hearing people’s stories so the team knows who to contact next, then compile and analyze what they’ve learned, then form a problem statement and then, with members of the community, think of potential solutions to issues involving fresh food accessibility in Danville. He said the team will ask individuals who call about their personal experience with fresh foods, including how often they eat them and where they get them.

Bingaman said one thing he’s excited about in pursuing the project, especially since he is a freshman, is “Especially now, I think all of us are kind of craving connection with people, so it’s really exciting to be a part of something where we’re doing it in a way where we’re not only making connections but we’re making community and relationship.”

Andrea Margida explained this project will be done with CentreWorks’ “human-centered approach,” which involves listening and getting individual perspectives of people who are impacted.

“What they want to hear is an individual’s perspective,” she said. “They want people to have the chance for their voice and their experience to be heard rather than speaking for others or speaking for another group. That’s why it’s a huge undertaking — because it’s individual, one-on-one conversation to understand someone else’s experience with this.”

Student Phoenix Staten echoed Bingaman’s point in her own excitement to build connections. She said she is looking forward to learning how food accessibility affects people but also learning about people’s everyday lives in the community and what brings them joy. She said another aspect of the project is trying to figure out how the team’s mission fits into what other outlets are involved with in the community, and working together with those outlets. Taylor Kennedy, another student, said she is excited that the processes she’s learned over the summer for the project are skills she will continue to utilize throughout her college experience.

Student Averey Duechle said she is from an Appalachian community where food accessibility is an issue, and she said, “It’s really good to go to college and actually learn the skills to actually build — that’s something you could take to other areas in your life.”

And Jenkins said one thing she is looking forward to about the project is merging things she cares about — food and people. Both sides of her family have farming backgrounds and she said some of the ways in which they farm might not be sustainable, so she said she makes it her mission over the summers to work with farms that have sustainable practices and learn from them.

“To find a nonprofit like CentreWorks that has an initiative dedicated to food accessibility is kind of this amazing culmination of things that I care about, which is food, people, and bringing those two things together, and I think that food is the binder that could really bring a community like Danville closer,” she said. “It’s something that can bridge divides and really transcend barriers, and it’s something that I really care about.”

To speak with a live person, call (859) 474-0029. Voicemails can also be left for the team if calling the hotline outside of the following hours:

• Saturday, Jan. 23 and Jan. 30: 9-11 a.m.

• Sunday, Jan. 24 and Jan. 31: 4-6 p.m.

• Wednesday, Jan. 27 and Tuesday, Feb. 2: 5-7 p.m.

• Thursday, Jan. 28 and Feb. 4: 12-2 p.m.