Healthy Jackson County has announced a change in the coalition’s organization.
During Wednesday’s all-coalition quarterly meeting via Zoom, Coordinator Bethany Daugherty said a Feeding the Community subgroup has been added to coincide with the Improving Nutrition workgroup.
“Feeding the Community is a network of all of our food assistance providers, and they met for the first time last Friday,” Daugherty said. “They met to really form that group and talk through some of the barriers of food access that they can work together on for our community, so that’s exciting.”
The other HJC workgroups are Decreasing Tobacco Use, Physical Activity and Hispanic Health.
With new work comes new staff, and two new part-time staff members have joined the Healthy Jackson County team at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour: Tyler Henkle is the new tobacco grant coordinator, and Jill Whitaker is the rural food access coordinator.
“Tyler joined us about a month ago, and he has been working hard on the tobacco grant and spearheading the work plan for tobacco cessation in our community,” Daugherty said. “Jill is a clinical dietitian here at Schneck, but we’ve also increased her title a little bit, and she is now our rural food access coordinator for Jackson County.”
She said Whitaker is leading the Feeding the Community coalition and will be working with local food pantries to create a network for collaboration and communication so they can all work better together to feed the community.
Whitaker said she started her role with the coalition in May and is still getting into the swing of things. During Wednesday’s meeting, she shared photos of some local Little Food Pantries and Shed for You community buildings.
“Earlier this summer, I started out touring Jackson County, which was very enlightening and very eye-opening to see the variety of these Little Food Pantries throughout the county,” Whitaker said. “I got to meet some of the people associated with those and learn more about them.”
She also got to meet with several of the HJC food pantry partners in Jackson County.
“They were all very welcoming, and I was really struck by the passion that all of them have for what they do and for serving our community and this great need,” Whitaker said. “So that’s kind of initially what I’ve started out doing, and then last Friday, we held our first revamp of Feeding the Community workgroup.”
She said that workgroup was started pre-COVID but then fizzled out during that time.
“So we’re trying to get restarted as a platform for many of our food assistance partners to be able to meet together and communicate,” Whitaker said. “It was very encouraging, and I think we had about 14 of us total who were there, and about five of our local food pantry partners were represented at that meeting, so a lot of good conversation and a lot of good ideas were shared there.”
She said the workgroup is working on adding a few more partners that were suggested to be part of that conversation.
“We’re working on getting an email communication group there, and also, I’ve updated some pictures of all the Little Food Pantries and food Shed for Yous to update the brochure and try to keep that updated,” Whitaker said.
There will be a plan to add a nutrition security section on the HJC website in the near future.
“That maybe will give more information as we’re trying to get more of our food pantry partners connected with hoosierhelp.org so we can get them plugged in there to make their services more accessible to our community,” Whitaker said. “So we’re working on Hoosier Help information, the food assistance brochure, recipes, more access to the Little Food Pantries and maps and other technology to help people have better access to the locations.”
She said they’ve had some fruitful conversation within the workgroup about some of the things they’re working on as they get started.
Daugherty said both Whitaker and Henkle have hit the ground running with their respective workgroups.
“It’s really encouraging to see that whether we meet in person or have hybrid meetings again, to see the conversations and the passion that people have for feeding their community and serving the community in all ways,” she said. “If you ever need a dose of motivation, Jill’s group has a lot of that.”
For information about Healthy Jackson County, visit schneckmed.org/healthy-jackson-county or facebook.com/healthyjacksoncounty.