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HATponics, Emerald Youth feed growing number of families for free

Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 9:49 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Healthy, free veggies that’s how one east Tennessee farm has made a difference for our center-city neighbors.

“It’s nice to go in and experiment with certain things. So it makes it challenging but delicious at the same time,” said Shaunni Williams.

Each week Williams got a fresh bag of produce at Emerald Youth, where her kids attend their after school program.

The free brown paper bag comes from HATponics, a Lenoir City company that uses water and fish waste to fertilize and grow produce.

They partnered with Emerald Youth in Knoxville over the summer.

“We’ve tripled our number of bags since starting, which is huge,” said Alison Oakes.

As the marketing director for HATponics, Oakes has seen how this had changed lives.

“Giving someone a bag of produce once a week has this ripple effect,” explained Oakes.

“As long as you’re open minded to trying new foods, there’s nothing wrong with it,” said Williams.

Williams and her three kids tried new foods like butternut squash and eggplant.

“It’s great to see so many of our parents and young people coming together cooking in the kitchen, learning new recipes,” said John Crooks.

John Crooks is the communications director for Emerald Youth. He’s watched the program blossom while Williams’ got her high schooler to test out his cooking skills.

“One of the bags one time came with some fresh rosemary and thyme so he was able to incorporate that into his cooking and it was actually pretty good,” said Williams.

It’s even led them to get a little more exercise by the family going on nightly walks.

Now 160 families got the same weekly dose of fruits and vegetables.

“One of our outcomes at Emerald Youth Foundation is helping young people to live healthy lives,” explained Crooks.

“I just think it’s a good program for a lot of families,” said Williams.

The program was free for families. You can go here to donate. The bags are being provided by YOCO, a local non-profit, and were made possible by a grant from The Alcoa Foundation.

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