When it comes to our region’s food system, it is important to remember every little bit counts. At the Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition’s Spring Luncheon in May, we celebrated the past year’s “little bits” that helped move us toward a healthier community!
1. Engaged farmers help the Kansas City Food Circle grow
Emily Akins, co-coordinator for the Kansas City Food Circle, announced that the organization’s membership has grown to more than 100 farmers over the past year. This is a big step given the many difficulties farmers face today. The food circle also hosted their “Eat Local and Organic Expo” at Johnson County Community College, where they had a record breaking 1,700 in attendance. The KC Food Circle promotes the benefits of locally-grown, organic and free-range foods while supporting small farmers and connecting them with both chefs and eaters.
2. BoysGrow finds its way home
The long journey to a permanent home is complete for BoysGrow. Founder John Gordon Jr. announced that he and his group of 28 teenaged boys have finally found a place call their own. BoysGrow spent three years raising money, and ultimately received a large donation from Cargill, a Minnesota based agricultural trade and purchasing company, to fund its 10-acre lot located in south Kansas City.
3. Giving Grove helps grow an alternative food system in KC
Neighborhoods in Kansas City are more fruitful these days thanks to Giving Grove, an affiliate of the Kansas City Community Garden. Executive Director Rob Reiman spoke on behalf of the organization, which teaches people how to grow healthy food, create their own alternative food system, and in the process, inspires communities to come together. Recently, Giving Grove teamed up with members of Bessie’s House to plant an orchard at 10th and Newton. When people from the neighborhood learned that the fruit and nut trees were for everyone, about a dozen happily joined in to lend a hand.
4. Powell Gardens’ tomatoes roll into local grocery store
Eric Tschanz, president and CEO of Kansas City’s Powell Gardens discussed another edible blooming around Kansas City – tomatoes! He announced that over the past year, 4,200 tomato seedlings were planted in Powell Gardens’ Heathland Harvest Garden, and produced 80 thousand pounds of tomatoes! The tomatoes are being sold in a metro area grocery store.
5. Midwest Dairy brings breakfast to the classroom
Marley Sugar, health and wellness program director at the Midwest Dairy Association, acknowledged the many successes the association seen working with schools across the nation. Fuel Up to Play 60 is a school wellness program sponsored by the National Dairy Council, the Midwest Dairy Council and the National Football League, in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture. The program encourages youth to choose nutrient-rich foods first and get out and play at least 60 minutes each day. It has helped make wellness a part of the “game plan” in more than 73,000 schools across the county, including more than 12,000 schools in the Midwest.
Through Fuel Up to Play 60, Midwest Dairy revitalizes school breakfast programs, like Grab ’n’ Go Breakfast and Breakfast in the Classroom. These efforts allow breakfast to be served outside of the cafeteria, giving all students an equal chance to eat a nutrient-rich meal before beginning their school day!
6. Wyandotte County boosts water access, fitness opportunities, and summer meals for kids
Wesley McKain, program director for Healthy Communities Wyandotte, explained the Unified Government’s H20 to Grow grant program. Local residents and organizations looking to grow fruits and vegetables, reduce water run-off and improve their community are ideal candidates for this program. Growers may apply to have a water tap installed for free, based on how well they fit a set criteria.
McKain also shared the news of a new grant from the Kansas Health Foundation to bring the healthy lifestyles campaign, 12345 Fit-tastic!, to Wyandotte County for 19 months.
Additionally, Wyandotte County received a CHAMPS grant from the National League of Cities Food and Research Action Center to provide summer meals for kids. Healthy Communities Wyandotte partnered with Kansas City Kansas Public Schools to expand the summer meals program, which serves free, healthy breakfast and lunch to kids in 40 school and non-school sites five days a week across Wyandotte County. (Be sure to watch this fun video!)