By David Esteppe
The town of Rainelle has been selected for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Local Foods, Local Places program as a partner community for 2016. Rainelle is the only town in West Virginia to have been chosen for the support of this program.
Local Foods, Local Places aims to boost economic opportunities for local farmers and businesses to improve access to healthy local food and to promote childhood wellness. The program helps people create walkable, healthy and economically vibrant neighborhoods through the development of local food systems.
Rainelle Mayor Andy Pendleton was aware of the town being a partner community this year but had to await the public announcement this week after the White House Rural Council made it official publicly to share her delight.
“Local Foods, Local Places is comprised of several agencies working together to provide direct technical support to accomplish our goals of downtown community revitalization and the promotion of childhood wellness. I am amazed at the many regional organizations that have banded together in support of tiny Rainelle,” said Pendleton.
Rainelle is a town of just over 1,500 people, and 28 percent of the population is below the poverty level.
“This whole thing has been made possible by the work of Steve Weir and Peggy Crowder of the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation (GVEDC), which worked with Greenbrier County Schools, Rainelle Medical Center, Greenbrier County Commission, Seeds of Recovery. VC2 Initiative and the Greenbrier Valley Local Foods Initiative to call attention to the needs of our town during the application process,” Pendleton added.
The GVEDC assists the needs of the business community of Greenbrier. Monroe and Pocahontas Counties.
The GVEDC’s Peggy Crowder explained that the process now begins with a community-based assessment through a steering committee that will take place by this summer. Pendleton added that the town started a community garden and a farmers market last summer. The Rainelle Medical Center has also implemented a number of wellness initiatives for children and adults.
“With this technical support and possible funds to implement our goals of bigger projects, like seeing to it that our stores are within walking distance, become possible. There are grants on the way for new sidewalks, and Rainelle has the longest main street in Greenbrier County. Our side streets are where the residents live and our businesses run all along Main Street,” Pendleton said.
Once the steering committee concludes the fact-finding process, the community will be eligible to access approximately $20,000 to implement the recommendations.
According to the EPA, the Local Foods, Local Places partner communities do succeed in opening year-round downtown markets featuring locally produced foods. Communities are also successful at planning and implementing grocery stores and other revitalization of their main streets.