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Free for All



Many of the Leaders we profile in The Inside Track work in the nonprofit sector, advocating for things such as improved school food, more time for physical activity or healthy food access. But some of our Leaders also are making a difference in the for-profit field. 
That’s the case with Leader Amanda Willis, the community relations coordinator for the Earth Fare market in Athens, Ga. With more than 20 locations in six states, Earth Fare is one of the nation’s leading natural grocers, committed to selling products that don’t contain ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial colors or sweeteners, or include synthetic growth hormones in meat or milk.
But along with selling healthy goods, Earth Fare is committed to playing a role in reducing childhood obesity. Part of the chain’s efforts is its weekly “Family Dinner Night,” held from 4 to 8 p.m. on Thursday. 
It works a lot like the “kids eat free” deals offered by mega-chain restaurants: With any $5 purchase, Earth Fare provides free healthy meals to kids, a healthy alternative to unhealthy fare at some restaurants. Earth Fare also works hard to educate its young patrons about good nutrition during the dinner nights, including through special events such as healthy cooking classes.
Willis helps organize the event at the Athens location. 
“We make it more of a community event. Last Thursday night we did kids karaoke, which was insane and like, an overload of cuteness,” Willis says, laughing. “They were just making up their own songs, and singing their ABCs.”
Free cooking and art classes also have been held during the dinner night, Willis says, noting that the weekly event also helps bring together the community.

“We get lots of parents, who bring in their neighbors and bring in their neighbor’s kids,” Willis says. ““It usually turns into a social hour after kids get done eating… It definitely turns into a good chance for everyone to sit down and chat.”