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Thomas McChesney: How 'Revolution' continues is up to you

Apr. 28, 2010 @ 12:00 AM

The cameras are gone, the show is over, and the worldwide media attention that examined our eating habits and lifestyle will soon fade to memory. Jamie Oliver began the Food Revolution here for two important reasons: First, a CDC report that underscored our need to change our eating and life habits, and secondly, the belief that we would be willing to do so.

We all know that the producers of the television show chose this area because of the CDC report describing the region as the least healthy in the nation. However, the sad truth is that there are many communities who share in our distinction for being unhealthy. What you may not know is that Huntington was chosen as the "Lexington and Concord" of the Food Revolution because the producers believed that -- among all of the communities they considered -- we were willing, able, and eager to embrace change.

Last summer a gentleman visited a Create Huntington Chat 'n' Chew. Not knowing him, several of us introduced ourselves and invited him to participate in the conversations. As it turns out, this young man, Evan Swedelson, was a producer and scout for what would become "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution." He spoke with us about their vision for the show and learned about the small army of people who are working hard to transform Huntington into an extraordinary place to live. He left believing that we could be the people who would change America.

You know the rest of the story. The producers chose to create the show here. They worked in our schools, churches and civic organizations; filmed us eating, walking, shopping and talking; opened a downtown teaching kitchen; exposed aspects of our lives that we would have rather kept hidden; and, in the end, portrayed this area as a beautiful city, filled with good, hard-working people who are willing and eager to change their lifestyles to live longer, healthier lives.

However, a fundamental question remains: Will we change? The much-loathed CDC report described our lifestyle, and Jamie Oliver shined a bright light on the challenges we face, but it is up to us to determine how we will be remembered. Will we be forever known as the least healthy place in the world, or will we be recognized as a community that confronted its problems and became the place where the nation's Food Revolution began?

Many are continuing the revolution. Cabell Huntington Hospital and Ebenezer Medical Outreach continue Oliver's work in Cabell County schools and the community. Businesspeople such as Chef Michael Bowe, owner of the recently-opened Huntington Prime, serve high-quality, locally produced food. The owners of the soon-to-be-opened Third & Ninth Deli-Market, will feature fresh, locally sourced food items. A group of local volunteers recently visited ACEnet, a community development organization in Athens, Ohio, to learn about ways to sustain a local food industry. Groups are working through Create Huntington to expand our access to locally produced foods and products, organize buyer co-ops, establish open-air market days downtown, and offer fun, new ways for us all to be more active.

Really, the only question is will you get involved? Will you seize this opportunity to change your lifestyle and to demand change in our schools and institutions? Will you be a revolutionary or a bystander? How you answer this question is vital to your life, your children's lives and your grandchildren's lives. It is vital to how our community sees itself and how the world sees us.

There are many ways to get involved. I invite you to join the Revolution and be part of Huntington's exciting transformation. Join your friends and neighbors at the Create Huntington Chat 'n' Chew, held 5:30 to 7 p.m., every Thursday in the lobby of the Frederick Building (940 Fourth Avenue). If you can't join us on Thursdays or would like more information, go to www.createhuntington.com or e-mail createhuntington@gmail.com.

Thomas McChesney is a Huntington resident.

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