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Farmers, Policy Makers Meet in Bridgeport to Discuss Local Produce Goals

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BRIDGEPORT -

Farmers and policy makers met at the Bridgeport Conference Center on Tuesday for the "Road Map for the Food Economy" Conference.

"We're interested in helping more people access healthy local food, helping farmers and businesses to become more profitable. Getting more young people engaged with agriculture and getting more of those foods in institutions," said Savanna Lyons, program director for the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition.

One of the objectives for those that attended is to promote locally grown foods and meat products in restaurants and facilities in West Virginia.

The Bridgeport Conference Center does just that at its monthly winter farmers markets.

"We feature food items that do feature local grown products into our finished dishes. Folks get to see things like arugula, fresh local pork, pork shoulder used in those dishes and feel free to ask our chefs how they do it," said Scott Duarte, General Manager at the Bridgeport Conference Center.

Part of the reason why people don't purchase local meats, fruits and vegetables is because they don't know it's available.

"Educating the consumers is of key importance because local foods is no longer. It's going out of the trend and fat is becoming the commonplace. Part of that is due to the education process," Duarte said.

Another myth is a huge difference in price compared to grocery store prices.

"Having visited the grocery stores recently I don't think there's as much of a difference as there used to be," Duarte said.

But produce isn't affordable for everyone, which is why leaders are working to make fresh grown produce more accessible for low-income families.

"The number of farmers markets accepting food stamps over the past year has just about doubled," Lyons said.