2015 Health Champions
Lawrence Chef Rick Martin has made it his mission to educate diverse audiences about how to prepare healthy foods and the importance of a healthy diet. Martin designed and piloted cooking classes for Douglas County’s food bank Just Food and these classes have taught hundreds of low-income families how to eat on a budget. He also helped the food bank secure a produce cooler. Martin has worked extensively with Lawrence Public School’s Farm to School program, where he sits on the program’s advisory board. He has provided food demonstrations in school cafeterias for hundreds of middle school students. Additionally, he has become a statewide speaker and food service staff trainer. During the past year, Martin founded the Lawrence Chefs and Farmers Alliance, a coalition to connect chefs and farmers to facilitate restaurant purchases from local farms. Martin also supports the local economy through Limestone Pizza by purchasing locally-grown produce and locally-raised meats.
"Martin has redefined the mission of the food pantry. It’s no longer about giving out quantities of food, but rather giving people quality food and the skills to use it. We owe everything to Rick Martin. We wouldn’t be the organization we are today without him. He has made huge impacts on the community’s health."
— Just Food
Di Xie, a Free State High School junior, is passionate about encouraging youth to eat more fruits and vegetables, and she does this through her work as a student gardener in the “Growing Food, Growing Health” project. The project evolves around growing food in a garden at West Middle School and then serving it in the school’s cafeteria or selling it at The Community Mercantile. Xie will be entering her fourth year with the project, and she began by working in the garden and learning how to grow produce. The next year she became a mentor gardener and helped her peers learn how to plant and care for the garden. Xie also has spoken about the project at public events and meetings, including the 2013 Farm to School Celebration.
“Lots of kids can get in the dirt, but we’re looking for youth who can influence their peers and speak to what we’re trying to do here, and in that way Di’s quite extraordinary. She’s a good communicator. She has a tremendous work ethic and she’s one of the students we can rely on to self-motivate.”
— Nancy O'Connor, Director of Education and Outreach at The Community Mercantile