HOUGHTON - For the past couple years, Mark Pittillo has been involved with making the menu at the Portage Health cafeteria more nutritious, and Wednesday, he'll be part of a local effort to inform people about healthy eating choices.
Pittillo, who is head chef at Portage Health, said Keweenaw Food Day is the local version of national Food Day.
"It's a national movement that was started about three years ago," he said.
Pittillo said Food Day is not only about making healthy food choices, it's also intended to let people know about the local growers of food. Seven local farmers will be taking part in the event.
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Pittillo said he, representatives of the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, Keweenaw Co-Op Natural Foods and Groceries and The Library Restaurant and Brew Pub will be on the streets of downtown Houghton doing various demonstrations of healthy cooking and talking about the availability of locally grown food. Free samples of squash soup, vegetarian pumpkin stew and hot apple cider will be offered.
"All of these things will be made with items from (local farmer) Chip Ransom's farm," he said.
The Library Restaurant will be offering healthy muffins, Pittillo said.
"We'll have all the recipes there," he said. "We're trying to get people to use these local resources. It's hard to get food up here fresh."
From 3 to 6 p.m., Pittillo said if the weather allows, the Keweenaw Eat Real Educational Market will take place in front of the Portage Lake District Library.
"It'll look like a farmers' market," he said.
Nothing will be sold at the market, Pittillo said. It's to let residents know what they have available.
At 6:30 p.m., Pittillo said the film, "Dirty Work: The Story of Elsie's Farm" will be shown at the PLDL. The film is about the efforts of two people to revive an old farm and stimulate a local community. After the film, there will be a question-and-answer period with a representative of the Wintergreen Farm in Ontonagon County.
All the events on Wednesday are free, Pittillo said.
From 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Pittillo said there will be a Harvest Feast at the Brownstone Hall in Atlantic Mine. There is an entry fee of $10 plus 10 nonperishable food items. All proceeds go to the Western Upper Peninsula Food Bank.
There will be a costume party at the event, Pittillo said.
Sara Salo, health education coordinator with the health department, said the agency is involved because it's in keeping with the health department's mission of promoting community health.
"Food Day is about supporting community health," she said. "We felt it was a good fit."
Salo said she brought up the idea of Food Day to Pittillo and Faye Carr of the Keweenaw Co-Op, and they agreed to take part. She is helping them coordinate the event.
"It's a great opportunity for the community to come out and learn about the resources available locally," she said.