Kansas Rural Center Launches 3-Year Statewide Farm-to-Fork Plan Initiative
The Kansas Rural Center on July 1 launched its “Community Food Solutions for a Healthier Kansas” initiative that will seek to advance the farm-to-fork food system across the state during the next three years. The program will assemble a statewide network of partners who are actively working on farm-to-fork solutions to food access for Kansans.
An early aim of the initiative will be to produce a Statewide Farm-to-Fork Plan, providing information to citizens and policymakers about the status across all sectors of our farming and food system, along with an assessment of barriers that need addressed. Ultimately, the plan will be used to inform public policy solutions needed at all levels to increase access to healthful Kansas farm foods.
Community Food Solutions for a Healthier Kansas is supported by a 3-year Statewide Partnership Initiative grant from the Kansas Health Foundation. KRC will work closely with the Kansas Health Foundation along with the four other statewide partnership awardees: KC Healthy Kids, Kansas Action for Children, American Heart Association in Kansas, and the Kansas Hospital Education and Research Foundation.
“The Kansas Rural Center is proud to work alongside KHF and our colleagues in these excellent organizations, to advance a healthy food environment for all Kansans,” said Julie Mettenburg, executive director.
KHF’s statewide partnerships seek to fulfill the Foundation’s goal of making healthful foods the easy, accessible, and routine choice. Said Steve Coen, president and CEO of KHF: “This initiative will provide the Foundation with the opportunity to work closely with these five outstanding organizations on efforts that will have a significant and long-term impact on the health of Kansans. We all make a number of choices every day regarding what we eat and drink, and we believe these organizations, with this funding, can work effectively to increase the availability of healthy options.”
KRC’s vision and mission calls upon Kansas farms to serve an important role in reaching this goal. “We are especially pleased that KHF supports the role of our state’s farmers and ranchers, and their fellow community members, in this effort,” Mettenburg said. She added that KRC looked to other farm states, including Iowa, North Carolina and Oregon, for models that have established the need for local farms in food access solutions. “Let’s face it: In Kansas, a global food producer, we are really missing the boat if we are trying to grow healthy food environments without engaging our own farm producers!”
KRC’s “Community Food Solutions for a Healthier Kansas” Initiative will especially focus on Kansans with known food access challenges. These are people who may not have enough to eat, are physically distant from sources of healthy food, or suffer from poor nutrition even though their refrigerators and pantries are full. To enhance dialogue and outreach about these issues, a series of regional summits will be held in Spring 2014.
During the first year of this program, KRC statewide partners will help develop the Statewide Farm-to-Fork Assessment and Plan. The plan will enhance awareness of the status, barriers, opportunities and policy supports needed to advance the Kansas food and farming system, with a goal of increasing Kansans’ access to Kansas-grown fresh produce, whole grains and a variety of proteins at home and in food outlets.
Kansans struggling with food insecurity due to distance and economic factors live in all 105 counties. Kansans consuming a nutritionally imbalanced diet comprise more than 75 percent of our total population, according to 2009 fruit and vegetable consumption data.
During the second and third years of the initiative, KRC and their partners will engage and educate citizens and statewide public policy makers to advance the needs identified in the plan. KRC will also train regional and local leaders in community food organizing to self-assess their needs and opportunities surrounding healthy food access via local farm production.
KRC has a long history of advocating for healthy food and farm systems. Most recently, in November 2012, KRC hosted the “Healthy Farms, Healthy People: Kansas Agriculture and Health Summit,” with support from the National Network of Public Health Institute and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
KRC’s annual farming and food conference, scheduled for Nov. 2 at Newton, Kansas, will provide practical information for farmers seeking alternative practices, along with community food topics such as farmers markets, CSA’s, coops and more, and public policy information regarding Kansas legislation and the federal Farm Bill.
The Kansas Rural Center is a non-profit organization that since 1979 has promoted the long term health of the land and its people through research, education and advocacy that advances economically viable, ecologically sound, and socially just food and farming systems.
Individuals and organizations who are interested in learning more and participating in this Initiative may visit www.kansasruralcenter.org and sign up for KRC information and emails, or contact Program Coordinator Natalie Fullerton directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 402-310-0177. More information about the progress of this initiative will be provided on the website as it develops.