Civic Agriculture for Civic Health

Kansas Rural Center Receives Funding to Advance Local Food Capacity, Health in Kansas

August 3, 2016 – The Kansas Rural Center will continue its current Community Food Solutions Initiative for another three years thanks to additional funding awarded from the Kansas Health Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the health of all Kansans.

The funded project, “Community Food Solutions: Civic Agriculture for Civic Health” will focus on cultivating civic agriculture in Kansas and mobilizing grassroots Kansans and partners to successfully incorporate Kansas farms into the supply chain that provides healthful foods to Kansans. Civic agriculture is defined as the trend towards locally based agriculture and food production that is tightly linked to a community’s social and economic development. Civic health is defined as the measure of a community’s well-being.

Launched in 2013, KRC’s three year, “Community Food Solutions for a Healthier Kansas” Initiative produced the report, Feeding Kansas: Statewide Farm and Food System Assessment with a Plan for Public Action (Feeding Kansas).  The report makes policy recommendations to help strengthen the ability of Kansas farmers and communities to grow and market fresh food, especially fruit and vegetables.  The recommendations were developed during the project’s first year based on input from hundreds of Kansans working in farm and food sectors.

KRC and their partners then engaged and educated citizens and statewide public policy makers on the needs identified in the plan and how to take action. Building on the momentum of this project, “Community Food Solutions: Civic Agriculture for Civic Health” is designed to empower grassroots Kansans to take the lead in advancing public policy and implementing actions that better incorporate the state’s farms and ranches into the supply chain thereby improving Kansas’s economy, community, environment, and health status.

KRC’s initiative will continue to engage in a coordinated regional and statewide public policy and community dialogue to grow awareness of the status, barriers, opportunities and policy supports still needed to advance Kansas food and farming systems that create greater ability for Kansas farms and communities to grow diverse, healthful food.

Specific activities of the new project will include revisiting the “Feeding Kansas assessment” process in Southwest Kansas to produce a Feeding Southwest Kansas report; engaging the State Local Food and Farm Task Force and/or its recommendations and local level food policy councils in policies and supports identified by constituents across the state; and advocating for increased support for state specialty crop funding and permanent positions within K-State Research and Extension and other higher educational institutions.

The current Feeding Kansas report has a specific focus on increasing fruit and vegetable production and access in the state. Increasing production of fruits and vegetables for local markets would help diversify and thereby strengthen Kansas agriculture, the Kansas economy, and access to healthful foods.  Both Kansans’ diets and Kansas’s agricultural landscape are deficient in fruits and vegetables, compared to other food and farm products.

In 2012, 90 percent of Kansas’s harvested crop acres were devoted to growing the following four foods: wheat (9 million acres), corn (4 million), soybeans (3.8 million), and sorghum (2.1 million). Forage for livestock covered nearly 2.5 million acres. Meanwhile, only 14,359 acres, 0.03 percent of Kansas farmland, were used to produce vegetables, berries, fruits and nuts.

While increasing fruit and vegetable production and access has been a primary focus, the ultimate goals of the projects are engaged, healthy communities across the state and a Kansas food and farming system that will increase residents’ access to and consumption of a healthy plate including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and a variety of protein sources – both at home and in food outlets, improving personal and community health across the state.  The newly funded project aims to incorporate more dialogue and understanding of challenges and opportunities across grain and animal protein food sectors.

Individuals and organizations who are interested in learning more and participating in this Initiative may visit www.kansasruralcenter.org/CFS  and sign up for KRC information and emails, or contact Program Manager Natalie Fullerton directly at nfullerton@kansasruralcenter.org or 402-310-0177.

The Kansas Health Foundation is a private philanthropy dedicated to improving the health of all Kansans.  For more information about the Kansas Health Foundation, visit http://kansashealth.org/.

The mission of KRC, founded in 1979, is to promote the long-term health of the land and its people through community-based research, education, and advocacy that advances an economically viable, ecologically sound, and socially just food and farming system in Kansas. For more information, visit kansasruralcenter.org.