Foundation awards more than $2M for healthy diet initiative

KHI News Service

WICHITA — Five organizations have been selected to spearhead a new statewide initiative to foster healthier diets, officials at the Kansas Health Foundation announced today.

The organizations selected to form the Statewide Partnerships for a Healthier Kansas initiative are:

  • American Heart Association in Kansas,
  • Kansas Action for Children,
  • Kansas Rural Center,
  • KC Healthy Kids, and
  • Kansas Hospital Education and Research Foundation, which is affiliated with the Kansas Hospital Association.

The organizations will receive up to $450,000 over three years to advance four goals:

Increase consumption of healthy foods.

  1. Increase consumption of water.
  2. Reduce overconsumption of sugary drinks.
  3. Support health-promoting food and beverage retailing and distribution policies.

“We see this initiative not just improving food and beverage choices, but also improving the overall health and wellness of the people in our state,” said foundation chief executive Steve Coen.

“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.”

Julie Mettenburg, executive director of the Kansas Rural Center, said in the first year of the project her organization would be working to convene stakeholders along the food chain — including farmers, distributors, food stores and families — to craft a statewide food plan aimed at facilitating consumption of more local produce.

“The Farm-to-Fork Food Plan will identify the state of affairs with each link in the food chain, and then identify the public policy supports that are needed to advance them,” Mettenburg said.

Cindy Samuelson, spokeswoman for the Kansas Hospital Association, said that by the end of 2014 her organization planned to have at least 75 hospitals sign “pledges to work on creating healthier food and beverage environments” within three years. She said such environments include vending machines, food galleys, and improved menus for patients and employees.

“We’re modeling the behavior that we hope individuals and communities will move toward,” Samuelson said.

Christie Appelhanz — who will be leading the project for Kansas Action for Children — said the Topeka-based advocacy group plans to work with pediatricians, libraries, and existing partners via the Kansas Coalition for School Readiness to “ensure healthy choices are the routine, easy choice.” The coalition includes early learning educators, business leaders, child advocates, parents and law enforcement officials, she said.

“The opportunity to work toward a healthier food and beverage environment for Kansas children could not come at a more critical time. The prevalence of overweight and obesity — nearly one in three Kansas children between the ages of 10 and 17 — reflects a nationwide trend. The prevalence of overweight and obesity among children living in poor families in Kansas is even greater, rising to 45 percent,” Appelhanz said.

“Helping to create food and beverage environments that ensure healthy options are the routine, easy choice for Kansas children will not only improve their health, but also their ability to learn and their prospects for the future.”

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