Virginia’s Medicaid expansion vote shows the shifting Republican approach to healthcare in Appalachia (Belt Magazine)

Terry Kilgore saw the writing on the wall. The longtime Republican state delegate, who represents Virginia’s southwestern-most district, had watched as Republicans grabbed the White House and both houses of Congress in 2016 and then failed to act on healthcare. A year later, Democrats came within a single, disputed vote of winning parity in the Virginia House of Delegates. And Kilgore’s constituents in an economically distressed Appalachian district were struggling with paying for healthcare.

All that contributed to Kilgore’s flip after four years to support Medicaid expansion in Virginia. He and a handful of other Appalachian Republicans broke ranks to join Democrats to expand coverage for an additional 400,000 Virginians, including many in the mountainous part of the state.

I wrote about the why and how for Belt Magazine. Read it here.

Schools, snow days & hungry students (Scalawag)

“I was working really late in my office on a Thursday night, and we had been closed for four days for snow, when my phone rang and this little boy said, ‘Lady are you going to open school tomorrow?’ I said, ‘I really don’t know, honey, but I’m going to make the call and it will be on television.’ He replied, ‘Please open. I am SO hungry.’ It was life-changing for me.”

👆 That’s Roanoke School Superintendent Rita Bishop talking about what goes into the decision to call off school for snow and other inclement weather. It’s a reason why city schools began opening cafeterias to students & their parents three years ago.

Buoyed by a USDA memo, other western Virginia school systems have increasingly been doing the same, including here in Floyd County, which twice this academic year have opened their cafeterias to the community on snowy days.

Read my story about that + how schools and non-profit organizations are increasingly partnering to feed children in economically distressed communities, at Scalawag Magazine.

Summer stories for 100 Days in Appalachia

From mid-June through mid-August I worked as a contributing editor for 100 Days in Appalachia.

I posted a short thread on Twitter about my departure from the digital publication.

I contributed a number of stories to 100 Days in Appalachia through the summer:

Trump’s Proposed Infrastructure Improvements Remain a Windy Road for Commuters in Appalachia

Can ‘Berniecrats’ Win in Appalachia?

How a Rash of Tick-Borne Illnesses is Challenging Appalachian Health Systems

How the Annual Remote Area Medical Clinic in Wise, Virginia, Became Ground Zero for Parachute Journalists Writing about Healthcare in Appalachia

What Congress Can Learn from West Virginia About Tax Reform and Budgets

With Trump, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice Announces he’s Becoming a Republican. Again.

How a 40-Year-Old Federal Law Literally Changed the Appalachian Landscape

Appalachia Can’t Close the Health Disparity Gap Until it Fixes its Hospitals

Probably my favorite story for 100 Days involved visiting Camp Lincoln, a Goldwater-era conservative leadership camp near Webster, WV, where I watched teenagers debate recreational marijuana and practice political maneuvers to introduce last-minute legislation and push it into law.

If I squinted, I could see the future.

An update on ultramarathoner Mirna Valeria & her new memoir (Blue Ridge Outdoors)

Step over step. Step over step.

My dad was a lifetime runner, & I aim to follow in his steps. That’s part of why Mirna Valerio’s story resonates deeply with me. She’s using running as an avenue to lifelong fitness, and inspiring a ton of people along the way. She’s awesome.

Her memoir, “A Beautiful Work in Progress,” was released in October. I caught up with her for Blue Ridge Outdoors.

Appalachian communities hoping to build a new outdoor economy see threat from Trump (100 Days in Appalachia)

After years of building their regional economy around extractive industries, many Appalachian communities now are tapping into their bountiful outdoor assets to draw tourists—-and perhaps manufacturers and other job creators.

Places like Roanoke, Virginia, have created a new model for economic development, pairing traditional lures like workforce and infrastructure with an emphasis on livability and access to outdoor recreation.

Substantial challenges remain, however—-including President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, which would gut a number of programs crucial to economic diversification efforts.

Read the story at 100 Days in Appalachia.

Mad food scientists of the Midwest (Munchies)

This year the Salem Fair featured chocolate-covered bacon on a stick, which got me thinking about the vendors at the country’s biggest food fairs who drive fair food innovation.

A trip to Iowa during that state’s fair got the wheels spinning even faster, and next thing I knew, I was eating a pineapple bowl and interviewing the man who popularized deep-fried candy bars in the Midwest.

Read about that and more in my story for Munchies.

Hokies fight for Flint (Virginia Tech Magazine)

The cover story for the spring 2016 issue of Virginia Tech Magazine, which I co-write with Jesse Tuel, focuses on Virginia Tech’s Flint water study group.

I feel privileged that I got the chance to meet and learn from people doing powerful things in the name of service to others. These faculty and students are changing the world in a very real way for the residents of Flint.

Read the story at Virginia Tech Magazine.

Blue Ridge Trail Heroes (Blue Ridge Outdoors)

Mirna Valerio, who started running at well over 300 pounds and now competes multiple ultramarathons each year.

Mike Wardian, an international ship broker who has become worldwide running celebrity.

Sophie Spiedel, a 50-something mom who recently completed her 10th Hellgate 100K.

Anita Walker Finkle, who ran right through cancer and out the other side.

Phil Phelan, who quit drinking to explore and document the hidden trails of Linville Gorge.

Read their stories in my feature on Trail Heroes for Blue Ridge Outdoors.

The fight against cancer, campus changes & more (Virginia Tech Magazine summer 2015)

Because cancer takes many forms, each unique to itself, Virginia Tech faculty, students, and alumni who fight the disease find themselves in a wide variety of roles.

In its summer 2015 edition, Virginia Tech Magazine showcases the university’s efforts to fight cancer. Whether through caregiving, research, or fundraising, Hokies infuse their work with the spirit of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) to battle cancer at all levels.

Read my story on Hokies fighting cancer here.

Navigating the Virginia Tech campus soon will be simpler, following construction projects at the north end of the Drillfield, at the Southgate Drive and U.S. Route 460 intersection, and in the northern section of campus near Prices Fork Road and West Campus Drive. Our maps will help bring you up to date and get you where you want to go.

Read my story on the physical changes coming to the Blacksburg campus here
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The full issue is available online here.