Stakeholder Meetings Focus on Southwest Kansas Food System Future
By Natalie Fullerton
Southwest Kansas’ farm and food future was the focus of three meetings hosted by KRC in March and April, 2017. Kansas food producers, Extension agents, educators, community leaders and others actively working in farming and food attended to begin a dialogue around the vision for food access and farming in Southwest Kansas. Meetings were held in Garden City, Liberal and Dodge City.
For the past four years, the Kansas Rural Center has been leading an initiative, Community Food Solutions for a Healthy Kansas, aimed at increasing healthy foods access and consumption in Kansas, recognizing that in Kansas, our own farms and communities are a critical part of the solution. The first three years focused on overarching state level needs and produced the report, “Feeding Kansas: Statewide Farm & Food System Assessment with a Plan for Public Action.” The report led to KRC’s current focus on advancing local food systems in the state on a more regional basis, with Southwest Kansas as the first regional focus.
Understanding that each region and community of Kansas is unique, the next step is to zoom in and identify the regional systemic barriers and the public policy or public action supports needed to advance or strengthen local food systems as a solution to making healthful foods the easy, affordable choice for all Kansans. This includes helping provide access to more fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, increase the variety of proteins, and increase availability of these foods in retail and home settings for all Kansans, and increase production locally and regionally.
The spring meetings brought together Southwest Kansans to discuss the different farm- and food-related activities and policies currently in place in Southwest Kansas, especially those that impact local food production and healthy food access. Participants at the meetings worked on tough questions related to advancing the food system in Southwest Kansas and provided an honest assessment of the barriers the region faces in achieving that vision. A few key questions during the day included, “What is your vision for food and farm systems in Southwest Kansas and in your communities?” and “What is in the way of advancing that vision?”
Feedback from the meetings will be used to help inform a Southwest Kansas food and farm assessment and corresponding policy recommendations report. The report will document the key findings and list policy and public action options to help provide opportunities and eliminate barriers to local food production and food access in Southwest Kansas. The report can then be used as a resource and tool for communities, organizations and groups pursuing or already working in the realm of strengthening the region’s local food and farming systems which includes healthy food access.
In making healthful foods the easy, affordable choice for Kansans, KRC’s goal is to enable local farms and communities to boost the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and a variety of proteins, and to increase access to and use of these foods at food outlets and in home settings across the state.
Contact Natalie Fullerton at firstname.lastname@example.org.