Our Own Marlana Baker Receives an Innovator Award

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The Eat Smart Move More, North Carolina (ESMMNC) Innovator Award honors individuals and teams who energize their work through new initiatives that support ESMMNC Core Behaviors. Their contributions affect communities at the regional, or county level. Awardees do not need to be Partner members of ESMMNC and current Executive Committee members are ineligible.

Criteria for Selection:
• Supports new initiatives around health and wellness for 5 years or less
• Catalyzes partnerships or projects in communities through innovation and energy
• Award can be received by professionals or volunteers
• Completion of the nomination form

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In her short time as the Family Consumer Science Extension Agent with the N.C. Cooperative Extension Cherokee County Center, Marlana Baker has promoted wellness from the start. Baker obtained certification and began directing LIFT exercise programs. She also hosted a Wellness Walking Group and Community Walking Challenge in her first 6 months. Over the course of the last year she hosted an additional LIFT program, and began to incorporate hands-on cooking, food preservation, and nutrition classes into her workshops. She strongly believes in empowering individuals to choose and prepare healthy and nutritious meals in a simple way for long term health outcomes.
Baker initiated the formation of the local food council: Cherokee Clay Food Alliance and recruited a supporting team with a goal of progressing the local community food system. She currently serves as Vice President. Goals of this alliance are to support local farm markets, build a local food directory, and support cooking and nutrition education. Baker educates the community around health initiatives and provides cooking classes to gain skills to sustain a healthy eating pattern.
She is in the process of helping to initiate the first seed library in her county in partnership with Murphy Public Library. She also hosts food drive/donation initiatives annually, donating over 300 lbs of food to local pantries in the last year. and is currently involved in developing a venison donation program to combat food insecurity and make nutritious foods more available to her local community.
Congratulations Marlana, on your award and thank you for your dedication to the citizens of Cherokee County!