The staff at OhioHealth O’Bleness Athens Medical Associates OB/GYN were happy to take a break during their busy work day on Thursday to sample some locally grown and produced foods.

The fun came courtesy of the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks’ (ACEnet) Caravan.

The gynecological firm (formerly known as River Rose) was the most recent winner in ACEnet’s quarterly contest. The Caravan brings local foods created at, or in partnership with, ACEnet to employees at area businesses for lunch.

On Thursday, the office’s break room in the Castrop Center was overflowing with goodies from food businesses like Crumbs Bakery, Shagbark Seed and Mill, Vino de Milo, Herbal Sage Tea, Green Edge Gardens, and Creekside Farm.

Employees were also able to try some beverage samples from the two new breweries in town. However, the beverages were of the non-alcoholic variety — ginger ale from Little Fish Brewing Co. and root beer from Devil’s Kettle Brewing.

One “hot” item available was Mad Sweet Heat’s candied jalapenos. Many of the office employees were raving about the sweet and spicy peppers, which they were pairing with Creekside Farm chevre (goat cheese) and Crumbs Bakery crackers.

“I would buy a jar of these,” said Practice Manager Pam Born. “They are delicious.”

Employee Tiffany Holt said she was a big fan of the Creekside chevre.

“It’s amazing,” she said.

ACEnet Director Larry Fisher said that the owner of Mad Sweet Heat uses ACEnet’s kitchen to make her products, but sells them in the Springfield, Ohio area.

ACEnet provides services to small business and entrepreneurs in more than 30 counties in Ohio. This year, the organization is celebrating its 30th anniversary and has partnered with The Athens Messenger to highlight its work.

Fisher said that ACEnet is hosting the caravan quarterly and winners are drawn from those who enter through a contest held by ACEnet and The Messenger. He said the food products for the caravan are purchased by ACEnet, further supporting local businesses.

The Caravan is sponsored by the Ohio University Credit Union, Kroger and O’Nail Hartman Insurance.

Eva Bloom, membership development specialist for the OU Credit Union, said that one of the mission’s of her organization is to support and strengthen local businesses. She said that the credit union offers several business services to ACEnet’s clients.

Information will be posted on The Messenger’s website when the contest re-opens for individuals to register their place of employment to win a visit from the Caravan. The contest is limited to businesses within Athens County that have 50 or fewer employees. Individual departments or agencies within larger corporations are eligible to apply.

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sbrumfield@athensmessenger.com; Twitter @SaraBmessenger.

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