HERMITAGE — When visitors stop by Buhl Park’s annual concert series this summer, they’ll have the chance to try some healthier food options — the first initiative of the Healthy Community Collaborative.
The Health Hut @ the Cabin Cafe, a planned stand similar to what people would find at a farmers’ market, will offer visitors fresh fruits and vegetables, some nutritional information, and recipes for free during the concerts on Wednesday evenings.
The Healthy Community Collaborative, a partnership of the Community Food Warehouse of Mercer County, the Buhl Regional Health Foundation and Buhl Park, are working together on The Health Hut @ the Cabin Cafe.
“It’s just the beginning of this learning network and initiatives that will move our community into a more healthier community,” said Kateri Linn, director of programming at the Buhl Regional Health Foundation.
The origins of the program can be traced to a healthy lifestyles think-tank that was held in February at Buhl Park’s activities building with organizations from across Mercer County and parts of Lawrence and Trumbull counties.
Although the different groups may have had different backgrounds, such as green spaces, fitness, cycling or nutrition, they all had the goal of creating a healthier community, Linn said.
“We wanted to bring together people who may not have sat down at the same table otherwise,” Linn said.
Buhl Park Executive Director Tom Roskos said the meeting was an opportunity for the different organizations to share ideas and resources, with The Health Hut eventually coming to the forefront as the first idea the collaborative would try out.
The program also reflected the park’s environmental initiative, where visitors can learn how to take care of the environment and how to use the environment to make themselves healthier, Roskos said.
“The cool thing about the meeting was we could ask, ‘how can we all work together to make the community healthier?’” Roskos said.
Placing it during the summer concert series would further expose it during an event with an existing, local audience, Linn said.
In terms of food, The Health Hut @ the Cabin Cafe will offer fresh fruits and vegetables, with a different theme every week. These will range from apples and carrots to snap peas and celery, said Sarah Worthington, development manager at the Community Food Warehouse of Mercer County.
Information on the health benefits of each item and preparation information, whether it’s eating something raw or an easy recipe like soup, will be provided as well.
When helping those in need access food, Worthington said healthier options are often overlooked due to a preference for quick and convenient foods, or a lack of knowledge on how to prepare healthier foods.
As a part of “Feeding Pennsylvania,” which is part of the larger “Feeding America” network, the Community Food Warehouse tries to encourage people to select those healthier options first, making The Health Hut a prime opportunity to fulfill that mission, she said.
“It’s all about those nudges and signage, and letting people know, ‘there are great options out there for you,’” Worthington said.
The Health Hut @ the Cabin Cafe will first be unveiled Memorial Day weekend, when the park hosts their annual “State of the Park” event.
If reception to the program is positive enough during the summer concert series, Worthington said The Health Hut could be transported to other events throughout the community in the future.
Staffing The Health Hut @ the Cabin Cafe will be a combination of park staff and volunteers, as well as staff from the other two organizations involved, Roskos said.
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