Shawnee County food assessment moves forward with changes

In this photo provided by Vincent Nusunginya, boxes of cereal and bottles of juice lie on the floor of a Safeway grocery store following a magnitude 6.8 earthquake on the Kenai Peninsula on Sunday Jan. 24, 2016, in south-central Alaska. The quake knocked items off shelves and walls in south-central Alaska and jolted the nerves of residents in this earthquake prone region, but there were no immediate reports of injuries. (Vincent Nusunginya via the AP)

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods, Community Health Coalition came out with a 2017 community health assessment with 90 pages of data.

“What we found here in Shawnee County is our food system is really complex. At the same time we have 25,000 tons of food being wasted every year in our county, we also have 27,000 people who struggle to get enough food in our county,” says, American Heart Association’s, Missty Lechner.

It all centers on getting healthy food to people who need it most and reducing our food waste.  The biggest source of waste is us, and that comes from a lack of awareness and education.

“We are working with a number of partners to educate people on what are expiration dates, what are used by dates or sell by dates?  As a consumer I have a hard time interpreting that.  And so I work in food – I know this.  And I still have a difficult time, so I am sure everyone else does too,” exclaims Lechner.

For those in need, food deserts are a reality in Shawnee County.

“Over the last two years we’ve had a number of grocery stores close here in Shawnee County. And that means that over 30 thousand people in our community have difficulties getting access to those fruits, vegetables and healthy foods,” says Lechner.

The immediate steps for the coalition is to present the information to our county and city policy makes, and advocate for a county health planner and an advisory council.

Lechner says, “We need to develop some sort of advisory council on food safety issues. That would include everyone from farming and ranching, to consumers, to food waste, to our food businesses.”

In the next six months, the coalition hopes to bring community partners and businesses together to make a measurable impact on the data collected.

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