Want healthier food options? A local program is working to connect farmers to Lehigh Valley families and organizations
- The Kellyn Foundation aims to bring healthier more accessible food options to people in the area
- Its mobile farmers market goes all year round
- Now it's working with local farms to help grow its operations and provide local produce throughout the Lehigh Valley
LOWER NAZARETH TWP., Pa. — A program dedicated to helping people across the Lehigh Valley make healthier choices is working to expand its reach.
The Kellyn Foundation already brings nutritious meals to those who live here. Now it’s teaming up with other organizations to find ways to get more local farmers involved.
"Kellyn has really helped me incorporate that more whole-food-plant-based nutritional diet back into my busy lifestyle," said Kristin Behler, a mother of two and Lehigh Valley Health Network's director of health promotion and wellness.
"Being a mom with kids and a husband and so it's just made it easier for me."Kristin Behler, a mother of two and Lehigh Valley Health Network's director of health promotion and wellness
"Being a mom with kids and a husband and so it's just made it easier for me," Behler said.
Having fruits, vegetables and prepared healthy meals available where she works helps add time to her day, she said.
“I like that the price point is often so competitive and it's easy for me to just order it on a Sunday and pick it up on a Tuesday or Wednesday at a hospital location,” she said.
Behler has been instrumental in implementing programs throughout the Lehigh Valley Hospital Network to help staff have access to healthier foods.
A mobile market
One example is the mobile market at LVHN’s Hecktown-Oaks campus in Lower Nazareth Township.
"Kellyn could provide ready-to-eat meals, they can eat it for lunch, or they can take it home to their family,” she said.
“But then also it’s the produce, so you get fresh fruits and vegetables and grains, shop at the market here at the hospital campus and skip a step to go to the grocery store.”
“We also have our lifestyle medicine program, which takes families, grandparents, parents and children and helps walk them through the whole challenge of getting away from our standard American diet to a healthy lifestyle. We have Kellyn Kitchens, which provides healthy whole foods plant-based meals."Eric Ruth, co-founder and chief executive officer of the Kellyn Foundation
“We have two 27-foot refrigerated trailers, and we go across the valley and take healthy food," said Eric Ruth, co-founder and chief executive officer of the Kellyn Foundation.
"It's a rolling produce department is what it is, along with lifestyle medicine meals," Ruth said.
Bringing local produce and nutritious meals to where people live and work is the mission of the non-profit in the Lehigh Valley.
“Whether it be a senior home, whether it be a community school neighborhood, whether it be an employer, immerse them in all the opportunities to lead a healthy lifestyle,” Ruth said.
The mobile farmers market stops at quite a few locations throughout the Valley, serving about 2,500 families, but the food access component is just one initiative Kellyn implements.
"We have a strategy we call the healthy neighborhood immersion strategy, which includes teaching our children in the schools, which include school gardens,” Ruth said.
“We also have our lifestyle medicine program, which takes families, grandparents, parents and children and helps walk them through the whole challenge of getting away from our standard American diet to a healthy lifestyle. We have Kellyn Kitchens, which provides healthy whole foods plant-based meals."
An even broader approach
Now, Ruth said, the foundation is looking at an even broader approach.
The Kellyn Foundation is teaming up with the Bethlehem Area School District, LVHN, Bethlehem Food Co-Op, Second Harvest Food Pantry, Penn State Extension, Rodale Institute and Meals on Wheels as buyers to help local farmers build supply and demand.
“That just simply means we come out, we say you want to grow an extra 50,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, I’ll buy them at this price for next year, just put them in the ground,” he said.
The goal is to develop a food infrastructure that can provide locally grown and produced food to the people who live in the Lehigh Valley by maximizing farmers’ revenues and helping them to grow their farm at the least amount of risk to them.
Ruth said the initiative is under way and the next step is to meet with farmers in coming weeks to get them on board. He said he expects that program, aimed at bringing a more balanced food system to the area, to be up and running by spring.
"The social norm is changing things. You can feel across the Valley and across the country that is finally being accepted and understood and we need as a whole valley to work together."Eric Ruth, co-founder and chief executive officer of the Kellyn Foundation
"The social norm is changing things," he said. "You can feel across the Valley and across the country that is finally being accepted and understood and we need as a whole valley to work together.
"It cannot be Kellyn alone. It cannot be Lehigh Valley Health Network alone. It has to be all of us working together to make social norms, a healthy environment."
Those looking to pick up groceries from the Kellyn Foundation’s mobile farmers markets can order online. Kellyn also packs extra items for folks who stop by to shop without ordering ahead.
Days and locations for the mobile markets can be found on the Kellyn Foundation website. The non-profit also offers affordable pricing options to lower income families, with the help of corporate sponsors and state grants.