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Sunshine Seniors relocate fruit and vegetable stand for healthier eating
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Mary Camp, right, and Kathleen Bonds bag vegetables at the stand set up by the Sunshine Seniors in front of the Hall County Health Department Thursday. - photo by Tom Reed
The Sunshine Seniors Fruit and Vegetable Stand is open from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays through October. The stand is located on the grounds of the Hall County Health Department, 1290 Athens St., Gainesville.

When Elizabeth Westbrooks was a little girl, grocery shopping was a bit different.

“In the country, there might’ve been stores, but you lived too far to get to it, so everybody grew everything they needed,” said Westbrooks, a Gainesville resident and member of the Sunshine Seniors.

“And we canned what we grew. So in the winter-time, you just opened up those cans and you had good things to eat.”

Those were the simpler days of eating, when food had fewer preservatives and people observed a healthier way of life, Westbrooks said.

“Everyone wants to get away from that life — the farm life — but it’s nothing wrong with it,” she said.

“We need to go back to those times.”

To help more Hall County residents embrace healthier eating habits, the Sunshine Seniors has relocated its fresh fruit and vegetable stand from Fair Street Elementary School to the grounds of the Hall County Health Department on Athens Street in Gainesville.

The Sunshine Seniors, which started in 2002, is a coalition of seniors that promote healthy living through a variety of activities.

“With so many health problems and the (prevalence) of early childhood obesity, I think it’s important for us to encourage people to eat healthy,” said Maggie R. Lowe, a Sunshine Senior member.

As a nonprofit, the group uses money made from its sales to help fund other initiatives — like providing wheelchair ramps to the disabled, adopting a nursing home resident and even teen workers, Trey Prim and Asia Ramsey.

“We wanted to teach them about making a good, honest living,” Westbrooks said.

“They help us out with everything, especially running the cash register — we like to have young, sharp minds for that.”

While being out in nearly 100 degree weather surrounded by produce may seem like some type of punishment, for Mary Camp, the moment was filled more with nostalgia than anything else.

“I grew up on a farm (in Watkinsville), so this is a little like home,” she said.

With everything from fresh bananas and squash to the homemade jellies and pickled vegetables jarred by members Mattie MCcrary and Betty Hopkins, the fruit and vegetable stand has something for even the pickiest of eaters.

For member Ruby Brawner, the recipe for a healthy diet is simple.

“I eat an apple everyday, it keeps me going,” she said.

“If people want to be healthier they just need to eat more fruits and vegetables — and stay off that fried food.”

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