Once a month, the Prairie Township Community Health Action Team helps turn Fire Station 241 into a free produce market for low-income families.

Franklin County Public Health facilitates five CHATs -- one each in Bexley, Whitehall, Hilliard, Prairie Township and a southwest one that includes Grove City, Harrisburg and Jackson and Pleasant townships -- and is working to launch two more.

Each team brings together community organizations and local stakeholders to focus on needs specific to their neighborhoods, said Ashton Grigley, a health educator with Franklin County Public Health.

Started in 2014, Prairie Township's CHAT is among the oldest in the county; its members decided early on to focus on promoting nutrition and physical activity.

"Prairie Township is one of the few areas in the greater Columbus area that didn't have a produce giveaway or a large food bank," said the Rev. Nancy Day-Achauer, a CHAT member and pastor at New Horizons United Methodist Church.

"I do the grunt work, helping to bag the produce and hand it out," she said. "You can choose whatever you want and our clients appreciate the hospitality that they receive."

The market is held year-round from 9 to 11 a.m. on the third Saturday of the month at the fire station, 123 Inah Ave., where three pallets of fresh fruits and veggies are distributed through a partnership with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

"We serve around 100 families every month, which includes about 400 individuals," Grigley said. "The CHAT members have been the ones to coordinate that effort and it's run every third Saturday all through volunteers."

Prairie's CHAT has created a community cookbook filled with recipes submitted by residents. It also has created walking maps -- four different routes designed around OhioHealth Doctors Hospital and nearby schools. Members also have helped organize cooking demonstrations, educational outreach programs and giveaways of school supplies.

Preparing to enter its fifth year, the Prairie Township team hopes to build on the success of its initial projects and is always looking for new ideas. Members meet monthly at OhioHealth Doctors Hospital and residents are encouraged to get involved, Grigley said.

"Prairie Township is really in a state of transition now because we're trying to look for those next steps and next projects," she said. "We are always looking for new people to get involved with the CHAT and provide their perspective and help address the health needs in their communities."

Information about the Prairie Township CHAT is available online at myfcph.org/chat or by calling Franklin County Public Health at 614-525-3160.

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