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Fresh Mitchell leader finalist to give speech at NYC's TED conference

Billy Mawhiney

Local resident Billy Mawhiney has an opportunity to broaden his audience and speak to thousands across the nation about his Fresh Mitchell project.

Mawhiney is one of five finalists for the TEDxManhattan Challenge, which encourages individuals to work with their community promoting healthful foods and agriculture.

The challenge is part of the TEDx organization, which is a nonprofit started in the mid-1980s to promote public speeches on innovative ideas and ways to make the world better. The winner of the challenge will speak live on the 2012 TEDxManhattan stage during a one-day "Changing the Way We Eat" conference Jan. 21 in New York City.

"We're in the rural heartland," Mawhiney said. "But people don't always have access to fresh, healthy food or cooking classes. (All these projects) are thinking outside the box. Being able to speak on a platform as big as the TEDx about what Mitchell is doing to promote that is a huge thing."

Mawhiney was chosen for his involvement in the Fresh Mitchell project, which he began last winter when he moved to Mitchell from New York.

The project has included Mawhiney's promotion of the Mitchell Farmers Market and its acceptance of food stamps and debit cards, plus programs such as Edible Classrooms, Kitchen Kids, Pot Luck Club and Mom's Night Off.

To vote for Mawhiney, send an email to TEDxManhattanChallenge@gmail. com. A biography of each of the five finalists is at http://tedxmanhattan.org/challenge/. Voting is open until Monday.

While working with the Farmer's Market in Mitchell, Mawhiney aided in increasing the vendor list by 300 percent, and a Fall Harvest Dinner held in October raised $1,700 for the Edible Classroom project slated to begin this spring. The event will bring gardening into the classroom, educating kids on where their food comes from.

Kitcken Kids will start cooking classes aimed toward youth in January, and the Pot Luck Club is a monthly cookbook club for single seniors.

Each month, club members bring a prepared dish and share the meal around the dinner table, cutting meal costs for those on a fixed income, Mawhiney said.

Mom's Night Out is what Mawhiney refers to as a "reverse potluck."

Moms bring friends and the group makes meals for the freezer. The ready-to-bake meals free moms up for more family time.

In addition to promoting fresh and healthy foods, Mawhiney wants to education the community on the importance of spending family time at the table each day. Clubs like Mom's Night Out and the Pot Luck Club do that.

Being selected to give a speech at the Manhattan conference would benefit the cause, Mawhiney said.

A viewing party will be held the day of the speeches, Jan. 21, at the James Valley Community Center, whether Mawhiney is selected or not. The speeches will be broadcast via the TEDxManhattan Challenge website.

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