Appalachians Together Restoring the Eating Environment

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The Appal-TREE Project is a joint community-university research and demonstration project to increase access to healthy foods in Eastern Kentucky.

This National Institutes of Health research project was awarded to the University of Kentucky in partnership with CFA, with Dr. Mark Swanson as Primary Investigator and Valerie Horn as Program Director. The Appal-TREE project is located in Whitesburg, Kentucky and focuses on Letcher County with the intent that success there could serve as a pilot for Eastern Kentucky as a whole.

In the first year, the project worked with community residents and organizations to conduct a community needs assessment, an assets inventory, and general information collection. This focused on community priorities and ideas about ways to increase access to healthy foods in the area. Based on community feedback, Appal-TREE has focused on three major areas including Water First campaigns in local schools, healthy cooking classes for adults, and a healthy snack program.


Water First

Appal-TREE has kicked off a successful water first campaign this year in Letcher County Schools. This program installed new filtered water bottle refilling stations at every middle and high school within the school system and distributed reusable aluminum water bottles to all students and staff at those schools. Each school is recording how many water bottles are saved by each filling station, and students have been very excited to try out their new bottles and filling stations!

Cooking Classes

reginaWEBThe Appal-TREE Project has offered a series of healthy cooking classes open to adults who are providing meals for minors in their households. The intent of this series is to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in meal preparation. Participants receive essential kitchen tools for fruit and vegetable prep such as a chef’s knife and a cutting board. Each class has twelve participants who are able to prep meals during the class and take home key ingredients to replicate the meal in their home. These classes are taught by Knott County native, Regina Niece, who is the owner and operator of Four Star Village.



 Healthy Snacks

Appal-TREE is working to establish a healthy snacks campaign in local schools. We will be working with Letcher County Public Schools to assist in providing healthy snack options for students at school snack bars and concession stands. This program will be modeled after the Better Bites Program that was implemented in Fayette County, Kentucky.


Additional Work with CFA + the Community

Appal-TREE works with the Letcher County Farmers Market to make fresh, local food accessible to the entire community. The Letcher County Farmers Market is proud to participate in its second year with CFA’s Farmers Market Support Program. It also participates in the Double Dollars program and accepts SNAP, WIC and Senior Vouchers.

Summer Feeding Program


Letcher County Farmers Market partnered with the Letcher County Public School System to provide free meals to children under 18 visiting the market. Fresh local produce was purchased and prepared to make summer smoothies and breakfast wraps with salsa. The meals were offered free to youth and at a low cost to adults. Letcher County was the first farmers market in the state and second in the nation to have a Summer Food Booth on site to serve fresh, local foods.

To learn more, view the Bringing Summer Meals to Farmers Markets webinar conducted by the USDA.

When the Summer Feeding program ended, Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation (MCHC) sponsored the food booth for the duration of the market season. Through this partnership with MCHC, the market will be offering a ‘Farmacy’ program at the market. This will allow low-income patients at MCHC clinics to be prescribed vouchers by their physician to be redeemed at the market.

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Through this joint initiative of Community Farm Alliance, University of Kentucky, Appal-TREE Project and Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation (MCHC) in Whitesburg, doctors can now write prescriptions for vegetables to their clients with diet-related health conditions. View the FARMACY Program page for more details.